Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Social Product Marketer: 3 Tips for Getting Started

The market is shouting at you.  Are you listening?
According to, every minute on the internet there are 98,000 tweets, 1500 blogs, 600 new videos, and 1140 SlideShares are posted.  Word of mouth marketing and getting to pulse of your market today has taken on an entirely new scale that can deliver tremendous benefits.

As the voice of the market, we product managers are constantly looking for opportunities to improve our product roadmaps, identify new customer requirements, understand the latest market problems, or track the latest competitive threat.  And as the voice to the market, we product marketers are perpetually taking charge of launch plans, developing new sales tools, improving thought leadership or delivering new presentations and demos. 

Today, engaging with the market – whether you are listening or sharing – is easy with the right plan and approach.  And to top it all off, tracking your return on investment in the socialsphere has never been easier for product managers and marketers to measure.

Here are three tips to get you started:

Get out there, now.   

A few years ago, I wrote an article – Cubicle vs. Airplane Marketing -- about the need for product managers to get out into the market in order to meet their customers face-to-face, test their sales tools first-hand, and understand the real world requirements of their markets and buyers.  Even though I still highly recommend getting out of your cubicle and onto an airplane to truly understand your customers, the value of social communication tools grows stronger for us every day.

For example, I once led a global survey that queried the state of market adoption, customer challenges, and business use cases for the Microsoft SharePoint market my company was targeting at the time.  The survey ran every six months and we promoted participation heavily on Twitter, LinkedIn, and several highly frequented industry blogs and communities. 

Using these forums, we boosted participation to over 3,000 people in the survey giving us a solid representation of the market, its users, and requirements.  Taking advantage of large existing communities online meant that we spent less time building our own forums --allowing us reach sizeable audiences instantly. That kind of scale and speed would have never been possible on an airplane. 

Even better, we published updated survey results to the market through those same social channels, paired with conference speaking engagements, hundreds of tweets covering survey findings, blogs focused on analyzing the results, and posting off-the-cuff video responses to the findings from industry influencers on YouTube.  On SlideShare alone, the survey findings resulted in over 65,000 views – not only promoting visibility to the results, but dramatically amplifying word-of-mouth about our company and my role as a thought leader in the market.

The impact of social amplification was summarized well in a recent Harvard Business Review article that shared, “word of mouth still influences purchasing behavior.  Only now, social networks increase that circle from a few trusted friends and family to hundreds of people online.[i]” Frequency of participation in the most active channels has a direct correlation to the value and feedback you’ll receive. 

As I am sure you already have LinkedIn, Twitter, SlideShare, and YouTube accounts, I wont recommend signing up – but make sure that you are participating in at least one of those channels daily.

If you really want to know what the market is thinking, you need to get out there, now. 

Build Your Roadmap.  While speaking at Twitter’s two-day employee conference in July 2013, Arianna Huffington shared a perspective of her news business, “When we post a story, that's just the beginning, not the end, of the conversation. The news experience has moved from presentation to participation, and so we try to make everything we do a vehicle for engagement.” [ii] When planning product launches or campaigns, we need to shift our thinking from news and presentations to engagement and conversation roadmaps with the communities we serve. 

As product managers, we need to think on a larger scale about gathering market and customer requirements that influence our product roadmaps.  Crowdsourcing is one such option.  For years, companies like, Microsoft, Cisco, and LEGO have enlisted their customers and the public to help identify new ideas or to narrow down potential feature sets to the most impactful innovations.  For example, Facebook has used crowdsourcing since 2008 to create different language versions of its site, providing versions that are more compatible with local cultures.

For product marketers, consider a roadmap of engagement.  The best product marketers understand that social media is not simply about sending a tweet here and there, or posting news or questions to a LinkedIn group once a quarter.  To achieve the best returns on your social activities, you need to plan ahead.  Rather than thinking of social connections and community engagement as ad-hoc activities, consider building roadmaps to sustain your momentum.  Consider how to engage for the long-run. 

Think about how many of us plan our launches to blast out new content within one or two weeks and we then hibernate for six months until the next product release.  For the next launch you plan, consider a six-month mixed-media conversation roadmap with your market. 

Here is one example of “conversation” roadmap starting off with a webinar.  Coupled with the traditional promotional campaigns around the webinar, be sure to post the webinar slides on SlideShare and then tweet about them.  In the slides, insert suggested tweet opportunities and a call to action that drives readers to your blog site, where you post new updates, news or insights every week.  Invite blog readers to join you at your user conference in three months, and query LinkedIn and other online communities as to what topics they would like to ensure are discussed at the conference. 

Capture video feedback from attendees at the conference to post online.  Then use those same forums to crowdsource market requirements for your future releases.  Even better, consider capturing candid video feedback – positive or negative -- on your product or demos to share internally with your development teams.  While all this is happening, be sure you have scheduled a gaggle of tweets to share across your communities at regularly scheduled intervals; for major launch events, I know of teams that pre-scheduled nearly 200 tweets to go out over their first month in market.

By planning ahead with a conversation roadmap, your voice to the market will be much more consistent and you will produce winning results.

By the Numbers.  I have tweeted 2, 228 times and have 596 followers.  Last month our blog had over 4500 visits.  My SlideShare decks have been viewed over 100,000 times, my LinkedIn profile has been viewed 399 times in the past three months, and the internal sales enablement video I posted on our private YouTube had 72 views in its first day online.

These stats are not offered as bragging, as I know I am still a social neophyte compared to many others out there.  The stats are simply offered as evidence to how easy it is to track one’s activity, its reach and the impact. 

Want to know if you are on to something hot?  It might be evident in the 22 comments received yesterday on your blog, when previous blogs were seeing two comments a month.

The great thing about so many social media channels is the ease of quantifying market participation tends, daily community impacts, and return on your social investment.    There are those of us who remember when it used to be challenging to measure the ROI of marketing efforts, but social media outlets have improved their analytics tremendously over the past five years. 

Remember, in the socialshpere, be sure to measure the reach and impact of your activities.  With metrics that show how you are building awareness and consideration of your offerings in the market, social media activities will be viewed less as a hobby and more as a strategic marketing endeavor.

Want to add some fun into your numbers?  Consider waging a friendly competition within your marketing and product management teams.  Because the stats are so readily available, set up a competition to see who is getting the most retweets, comments on their blog post, views on their product demo, or feedback on their potential feature list. 

As a former business school professor of mine used to say, “keeping score, improves the score.”  In the socialsphere, living and playing by that mantra has never been as accessible as it is today. 

A Final Recommendation.  Be Human.  When you have your plan in place and you venture out into the socialsphere, leave your industrial messages behind.  People don’t just want to hear about “ZipBang v2.3 was just released”, “Download the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant here”, or “read my latest blog”.  Those kind of industrial tones are generally turn offs, and get passed over as quick snippet headlines.

Show your personality, post an opinion, or share your excitement.  “I was flattered to see”, “Listen to her first-hand account”, or “Here’s where they got it all wrong” kinds of communication engage people, encourage reaction, and invite action.   

Post more pictures, charts, and videos.  Just as you experience with your friends on Facebook, pictures, videos, and images help show more of who you are.  Let your personality show and invite people into a glimpse of your world.

Lastly, remember you are not in this alone.  The greatest achievements in our lifetimes were not accomplished by individuals, but by large communities of people working together.  Join us, share with us, and count yourself in.

Information and Image Sources:, The Future of Corporate IT Looks a Lot Like Google.


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