Your Product Cannot Exist in a Vacuum

by Shannon Paul on October 10, 2009

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This is the name of a round table discussion I’m getting ready to lead at this year’s Product Camp Seattle (search on Twitter for #pcs09 to follow the conversation from today). The discussion is set to kick off in about an hour and I’m getting my thoughts ready to go.

It’s the second time now that I’ve been the first person inside a company to drive social media communication and like anything that’s brand new to an organization, this can create a lot of upheaval. One of the areas where things get tricky is in communication with product managers, developers and engineers. This is exactly why I chose to attend this particular event. :-)

Let’s face it — there’s often a huge communication and experience gap between people with marketing backgrounds and people with engineering and development backgrounds. Social media integration requires that we have something to share beyond messaging. That something to share should be something that’s valuable to THEM – the user or the customer.

In the social media community, we’re very accustomed to using the hell out of the sites we love. We engage, we post, we pick things apart, we critique, we share, we tag… My friend, Andrew Hyde refers to people like us as the “Posting Economy”. We’re a culture of posters — we post our status, ideas, what has our attention, etc.

The problem is that this kind of critique doesn’t always mesh very well with established business processes and procedures. Developers are often very knowledgeable and talented, but the business cases they’re presented with don’t often include social media requirements.

As communication professionals, how do we insert ourselves into the development process without creating havoc, friction and upset? Maybe we can’t — at least not at first, but I’m trying to learn how to approach this process with more finesse and understand how to bridge this gap.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far:

1. Social media and marketing types tend to gather ideas from other existing products or solutions. This can create problems because developers and engineers see it as their role to identify products or solutions — it’s your job to define the problem or list requirements.

2. Social media and marketing types don’t usually understand how to define requirements in terms that developers and engineers can readily implement.

3. Job satisfaction for developers and engineers  is typically derived from a sense of accomplishment — from crossing action items off their to-do list. Social media is never ending. How can we give positive feedback and help them with this sense of accomplishment in a state of perpetual beta?

Just some early thoughts on this subject. I think a lot of existing web-based products and businesses could greatly improve their value proposition and market share by identifying opportunities to make their products more social.

An example of this in my mind is this: How cool would it be if Amazon product reviews were more discoverable through search? What if Amazon product reviews could be posted to Facebook or had a unique URL so I could post my review on Twitter? Just at thought…

What products do you see that could benefit from a little more socialization?

Photo by shortlake
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

October 11, 2009 Saad Al Dosari 1

What you are describing is the constant-long-time-issue of communication barriers between engineers and marketing people. And as someone who is an engineer and, on the same time, studying marketing, it is remarkable to discover that both are usually aiming the same thing, although using different languages!

About which products could use more socialization. mmm … It seems that the trend in marketing now is to target customers in more personalized approach. For that, almost every business could use socializing to gain more of its customers’ attention and loyalty.


October 11, 2009 Ari Herzog 2

I’ve been posting movie reviews on my Internet Movie Database account for over 10 years. That’s a site that lacks socialization–beyond its walls. Yelp was built in a similar fashion, but at least each individual review has a permanent link; it would be great if IMDb had the same.


October 11, 2009 steve cunningham 3

Shannon – the real magic will come when there are no “social media types”. This is when engineers, designers and developers will truly connect with the people they are creating products for.

That being said, I think you andAri make a great point. Anything that can be done to make ALL reviews searchable would be a big step in the right direction.


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