Most aficianados of social media emphasize the customer-facing applications of these technologies. By now, we've all heard interesting stories about how Marketing used blogs to get the message out, Sales used forum postings to help qualify leads, and Support used Twitter to respond to users wrestling with technical problems.
Exciting, new-frontierish stuff, to be sure, but you hear far less about Development's social media strategy. What about the "inbound" applications of social media?
That question was my inspiration for what turned into a three-part series on "inbound social media." The first research document appeared today (Forrester subscription required to read the whole enchilada). The second and third parts are coming shortly.
A lot of development teams are skeptical about their company's investment in social media. Frankly, they don't see what's in it for them. Worse, it threatens to be a distraction from their mission to execute, execute, execute.
One of the great crimes of Twitter is the way Twitter users put "TW" at the start of perfectly good words and think it's cool, or ironic, or some combination of the two ...
My colleague: We're having a Tweetup before the Customer Experience Forum in NYC.
Me: Really? I thought that was frowned upon in New York. Haven't you seen The French Connection?
My colleague: Eh? Don't be so obtuse. I said "Tweet Up". It's like "Meet Up" for people who use Twitter and created an entire lingo of words with "TW" at the start, like "Tweeple" for "People" and that sort of thing.
Later today, I'm doing a teleconference on how product teams can use social media to make smarter product decisions. The presentation is based on a three-part series I'll soon be publishing on this topic. Click here for details.
Saeed Khan's recent series of posts about social media started with a video that purports to explain the new rules of marketing in which social media play a critical role. This video repeats a familiar argument: old-style marketing went one direction, from the vendor to the customer. The consumer, presented with a smaller number of choices than they have today, based their purchase decisions on a variety of motives, both tangible ("Costs less!") and intangible ("Be more attractive to the opposite sex!"). Vendors created their own messages and transmitted them through normal advertising and marketing channels, in the hope that they would deflect consumers in their direction ("We cost less, and we'll make you look even better!").
Now that the end-of-the-quarter madness is out of the way, I've had time to finish my inaugural podcast, under the guise of The Heretech. (That's the name of the blog where I cross-post, in case you didn't know.) The heresy motif helps explain some of the attempts at humor, if they seem a bit opaque.
This first episode features an interview with my colleague Oliver Young, who has lots of interesting things to say about social media and how B2B buyers are using them to inform their decisions. Oliver has been instrumental in collecting and analyzing survey data about this topic. As an added bonus for listeners, we discover why Oliver will never be welcome on the East Coast ever again.
First, let me belatedly acknowledge Luke Hohmann, who ranted eloquently about traditional requirements at his P-Camp session several days before I started this current screed. His observation was Hemingwayesque in its pithiness: "Requirements suck." Mine is more Faulkneresque, using an idiom ("stink on ice"), undoubtedly with a colorful origin that no one remembers.
The second reason why traditional requirements stink on ice is, ultimately, a question of perspective:
Development teams build technology for people who are wholly unlike themselves.
No team has the resources to live side-by-side with the people for whom they're building the technology. The users don't have the time or inclination, too.
Most development teams rarely interact with people on a different floor in the same building, so living side-by-side with the target users wouldn't be an automatic mechanism for osmotic transmission of insight.
Therefore, development teams generally view requirements in their own terms, and not the world as the end user sees it.
I've had to put blogging on the back burner for the last week because one research document, covering how product managers can use social media (blogs, Wikis, forums, etc.) as a new source of product requirements, underwent mutation, and then mitosis. Now, it's three separate documents, each of which demands all the empirical and stylistic discipline that Forrester demands. In short, I've been busy.
However, now that two of the three documents are drafted and in the capable hands of my research director, I need to vent. The target of my ire isn't the tribble-like spawning of new documents, which at the end of the day, is the right call, and has made the author much happier with the final product.
No, what's really churning in my guts is the inevitable outcome of talking to people about product requirements, writing about how to improve them, and re-visiting the topic during the editing process.
The results are in. And the collective effort of the four teams partipating in P&G's digital night sold 3,000 Loads of Hope t-shirts and raised $50,000 for charity. Tide actually matched the money raised, putting the total disaster relief donation to $100,000 for four hours of effort. Thank you to all who bought t-shirts!
So I got a golden ticket to P&G's digital hack night -- a P&G party to bring together social media experts, P&G digital minds, and experienced interactive marketers to share ideas. The event is to test the strength of digital media to try to generate $100,000 for charity.
Speaking of social media, one of the two research documents now in the editing queue looks at using social media as a source of product requirements. Using Forrester's POST* methodology as a starting point, how can product managers harness the enormous amount of potentially useful information transmitted in the clear through blogs, forums, Wikis, and similar technologies?
The other document in editing is the "Agile company" piece, covering the results of the survey and interviews we conducted to understand how Agile development changes technology companies. To foreshadow the results, I had to divide Agile adoption into two stages. To date, Agile aficianados have focused on the first, Agile within the development team. Clearly, for the story of Agile adoption, that's only Chapter One.
* In this approach, the steps for analyzing social media involve people, objectives, strategy, and technology (POST).