During a breakfast meeting this morning, someone asked a very sharp question: Are businesses really operating differently because of social media? I then jumped in the car, drove from San Francisco back to our Foster City office, and heard how Cisco has used social media to change product launches.
The obvious change, of course, is lowering the cost, if you're not renting out the Moscone Center for a big launch party. Slightly less obvious changes include the ability to reach more people in more countries. , the virtual launch also makes it possible to reach more people, in more countries, than Cisco could with traditional face-to-face events.
So far, we're just considering changes in capability. Doing product launches cheaper, faster, better is an important innovation, but it's not a sign that a company is operating or thinking in a significantly different way. You might buy a cheaper, better, and faster car, but you might not change your driving habits one bit, or take more care to follow the traffic laws.
Here's an important rule of thumb, if you're a researcher such as myself: Don't name something unless it really exists. That sounds fairly obvious, but unfortunately, in the history of the technology industry, there's a sad history of failed neologisms. In some cases, these phrases exaggerated the importance or complexity of some relatively mundane aspect of the world. That's how the superheated usage of the term knowledge management turned into a four letter word. In other cases, people use neologisms designed to describe things that might (or might not) exist in the future as if they already existed now. I've heard some presentations about the Semantic Web that certainly fall into that category.
Just a quick reminder that the "open house" for product managers and product marketers is tomorrow at 4 PM PST at Forrester's office in Foster City, CA (click here for a map). As my earlier post explains, the intent is to kick off a series of informal conversations about topics of interest.
For this first open house, we'll be discussing how social media are changing the job descriptions, priorities, deliverables, and required skills for PMs. All are welcome, the event is free, just come on down.