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A product management consulting group called Brainmates did an interesting survey on social media and product management.
The survey was a series of questions that all start with "Do you use social media to...?" The answers were yes, yes and yes. We use social media for everything... except to get feedback about our products.
A survey like this has a lot of bias, because answering "yes" equates to "I'm doing my job" and answering "no" could mean "I may be missing something". The natural inclination is to respond with yes, which makes the anomaly statistic even more compelling.
We all know (I hope) that we should be using social, collaborative tools to gather feedback from our customers that impact product development, so why aren't we?
For starters, if you sell to consumers, their comments may not seem constructive, or consistent. The internet is full of trolls and flamers and a small portion of them have meaningful feedback. Those customers are frustrated you're not listening. It's the perennial struggle we must all take-on to develop a systematic and practical process to skim off the 10 percent of feedback that's really good.
Second, talking is easier than listening. Most respondents are using social media to disseminate information about their product. This part is rather easy, why wouldn't you? But making sense of thousands of voices and transforming that into a coherent product strategy, now that's tough.
Lastly, it's an administrative nightmare. The number of product requirements could easily reach the hundreds. Even after skimming the ten percent of feedback that's good, further narrowing it down based on what's practical, cost implications and other factors creates a massive amount of busy work, compared to the relatively simple process of product teams developing their own requirements.
How PMs can leverage social media and become heros is to weave together collaboration, requirements prioritization, portfolio analysis and dashboards into an end-to-end product innovation management strategy. By doing so, the various voices of the market – customer, partner, supplier, employee and general public – drive a strategy for products and features they are willing to pay money for. And the PM has full requirements traceability and visibility into where features are in the development process. That makes him or her a hero when the CEO inevitably asks "why are we building this?" and "how does this product or feature fit into company objectives for the year?".