For most people, ‘social media’ tends to be synonymous with ‘social networking.’ You’re familiar with many of them already, whether you personally use them or not: Facebook for most; LinkedIn for the career-minded; Flickr for photographers; or, perhaps Google+ if you’re really on top of things. These site are largely consumer oriented, letting individuals socially interact with others directly, forming their own communities while engaging with others.
Social networking is but a subcomponent of social media though. As Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner write, "…most writing about social media focuses on how to use it for marketing, we believe there’s a larger story to tell." Social media is certainly very useful to help companies build relationships with their customers and, in turn, promote themselves.
Using this new medium primarily as a push tool, is very short-sighted.
The New Tools
Social media is an incredible intelligence gathering solution as well. And, specific to product managers, an established social network is also a powerful source of input; one that can be leveraged to garner product-minded input—much less expensively than, say, a focus group.
There are uncounted numbers of publications discussing social media. If you are looking to study its depths, dimensions, and gnarly innards, one example is presented by J.H. Kietzmann et al. in their ScienceDirect publication, and their honeycombs of social media (pg. 243, 248).
Simpler is better whenever possible. For our purposes here, there are four buckets that social media components fall into. They are Media, Analytics, Advertising/Marketing, and Platforms.
Media encompasses a number of different forms. In general, it is the mechanism enabling interaction between participants. Whether it is video, blogging, or social networking, it is the means by which you convey your message to others, and for them to respond.
The tools you choose might be Facebook for B2C (business to consumer); and, LinkedIn, Google+, Slideshare, or others for B2B. As I write this, Google+ has the potential to work equally well for primarily consumer and business interests. How it ultimately develops remains to be seen. Regardless, the tool you use is tied to your comfort level, available time to invest, and most importantly—where your audience(s) typically exists.
In social media circles you will hear reference to using ‘analytics.’ Typically the discussion gets shunted off to the side which is unfortunate. Tools like Google Analytics are free to use, easily installed, and provide a wealth of information.
For the non-computer minded product manager, tools like Google Analytics populate a database with information each time someone visits your website. Depending on whether you’re using a free or fee-based analytics tool, there is a range of data captured, such as:
- # Return
- # Unique
- Screen Resolution
- Operating System
- Browser type & version
- Source, where’d they come from
- Direct (they typed it in, clicked your email sig link)
- Referral (via LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, or other social network)
- Search (via Bing, Google, Yahoo!, and what it was they typed in to find you)
The usefulness might not be immediately apparent. Here are a couple things analytic data can help you uncover:
- Where do you customers tend to come from? (e.g. is where you think?)
- Who sends you most of your traffic? Does it reflect your activity on social networks, your blog, or email efforts?
- How long did they stay on a particular page? Which pages did they navigate from/to? Are specific product features capturing extra attention?
- What OS, Screen resolution, or device type did they use? Useful for software developers, UI design, etc.
In the next piece, I’ll round out the 4 buckets. We’ll also discuss the constraints you can face using social media in product management. Subsequent parts will discuss Benefits as well as why it doesn’t work for everyone.
(image credit: Jacek Brams)