[The original title was “Facebook and the product manager in India” however, I expanded the post to include all social media]
So what is the value, if any, of social media to a product manager in India? The short answer, for consumer products it is a vital communication channel whereas for enterprise software, it is just another way to connect with clients.
Let’s break this down into some detail here.
What is social media?
Wikipedia has a good article on social media with a clear definition. For me, social media is all media or any communication channel where user-generated content predominates. This includes blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Pinterest and all such entities. It is usually a broadcast medium, which also enables peer-to-peer interactions (sometimes its the other way around). I also include product forums in this definition. Now let’s take a look at the value of social media.
Social Media for Enterprise Product Managers
Market Facing Roles
If you are in an Indian market enterprise product management role, you need to be aware of social media, and run a blog. The reality is that very few enterprises in India have adopted social media at all. And it is not seen as an authoritative communication channel. You should focus only on gaining experience of working with social media, for future opportunities.
In an offshore enterprise role, you ability to influence social media is limited, however, there will be ample opportunities to consume social media. For eg, on twitter you can follow @Forrester and similar sources and collect news and updates about the industry. Or you could update your company’s YouTube channel with product videos or slideshows, usually in collaboration with the product marketing manager.
Social Media for Consumer Product Managers
Market Facing Roles
In a market facing role, you really need to establish a social media strategy for your product. This will include the channels to use, the content creation and sharing plans, market research plan, the quarterly connect with customer plan and other relevant details for your strategy. Additionally, you need an analytics tools to track online customer sentiment. Customer sentiment is a useful input for new feature ideas or feedback on existing features.
There is lesser challenge in consuming and interacting on social media in an offshore product management role for consumer products than enterprise products. The main difference here is that your ability to connect the social media updates with real world interactions is severely curtailed. However, you can maintain an active presence on Facebook or Twitter, based on your organization’s policies.
Content Creation Strategy
Fundamentally, content creation must be tied to the goal of connecting the product with its customers. If you think up enough use cases, the content for communication will come up by itself, and then the main task will be to translate that content into appropriate form (video, slides, tweets containing URLs, blog posts etc) to share via the different channels. You should get the marketing communication team involved in this effort. Creating research polls and soliciting beta testers is also easier if your presence is already established online.
Content Consumption and Analysis Strategy
In my opinion, you should subscribe to a feed service and an analytics tool that a) summarize the updates on different channels b) provide reports on those updates. Unfortunately, most services offering these capabilities are expensive. So a free substitute would be to download these updates periodically and use open source tools such as PSPP to analyse the information. If your marketing team has a social media presence, then the same people can help you set up your product’s presence as well.
Social media is a somewhat useful tool for a product manager in a variety of scenarios such as sentiment analysis, sharing product demos and videos, getting industry updates, tracking competition etc. It’s importance changes relative to the type of product management role you are in. It is good to consume social media if you’re working in an offshore role, whereas it is important to develop and maintain a strong presence for your product line in a market facing role. And remember, the social media presence is for your product or product line, not you as an individual.