Lessons learned from Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life – Part 2

per·spec·tive n. Subjective evaluation of relative significance; a point of view.


In an earlier post, How to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle, I reiterated a common theme I noticed in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Social Software. That theme basically stated that many social software providers’ ability to execute may suffer due to their lack of resources, or, size does matter – according to Gartner. To address this issue, I posted my Trial offer to test the Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life where I proposed the services of a new player – the Community Product Manager. And finally, after receiving some much appreciated feedback, I followed-up with my Lessons learned from Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life – Part 1 where I clarified the distinction between a Community Manager, Product Manager and a Community Product Manager. In this post, I’ll focus on what I discovered during that trial week by presenting some concrete examples and how I think it fits into the big picture.

A fleck of paint

Recently, there’s been a lot of news about Space Junk;

In June 1983, the windscreen of the U.S. space shuttle Challenger had to be replaced after it was chipped by a fleck of paint measuring 0.01 of an inch that impacted at four kilometers per second.

So here’s my fleck of paint: For the purposes of discussion, I purposely selected trivial content in order not to distract from the point I’m trying to articulate. For now, you’ll have to trust me about the volume of content flying around in cyberspace 🙂

It’s really a matter of perspective

Here’s some content I found using Radian6 during the trial period and a few different perspectives:

Scenario 1: Broadcast of new feature to anyone listening for Socialtext
Tweet from pascal_venier on Feb 28, 2009 02:48 PM

Studying Socialtext wiki automatic “Email notification of Recent Changes” to your inbox. A nice feature. http://twurl.nl/ypcmoj…

Perspective Possible reaction
Anyone connected to Socialtext May retweet
Competitor’s Customer Compares to current experience and may contact support, or, retweet
Competitor’s Community Manager May need to ask Support about feature and if it exists, may tweet their own spin
Competitor’s Community Product Manager Compares to current feature-set & if it exists then tweets their own spin else documents 1-line User Story. For example: “As someone interested in the contents published on a particular wiki, I’d like to receive email notifications of updates on a scheduled basis, so I don’t have to visit the site to ensure I have the latest content.”

Scenario 2: Broadcast of feature request to Liferay & anyone listening for Liferay
Tweet from helmblogger on Mar 03, 2009 12:34 PM

@Liferay Our business problem… “News” both organizational and departmental. Need to display “all-in-one” and “by department”.. thoughts?…

Perspective Possible reaction
@Liferay (Perhaps Community Manager) Depending on their role, may forward to Support, or, Development
Anyone listening for Liferay May retweet & contact Support too
Competitor’s Customer Compares to current experience and may retweet & contact Support too
Competitor’s Community Manager May need to ask Support about feature and if it exists, may tweet own spin
Competitor’s Community Product Manager Compares to current feature-set & if it exists then tweet their own spin else documents 1-line User Story. For example: “As an author, I’d like to publish hierarchical content, so that groups based on the hierarchy have permission to read it.”

Scenario 3: Blog post targeting sought after project management features and referencing a few social software players
The Best and Worst Project Management Apps posted Feb 08, 2009 05:17 AM

… But there are a number of organizations that command large amounts of cash who need to procure project management systems for their divisions around the world. This includes NGOs, Government Agencies, International Schools, Non-Profits and more. In these harsh economic times, businesses should be looking for ways to tap into new markets. Most emerging economies still have nearly 100% room for growth, if only developers take into account their needs and circumstances.

Do any project management products exist that are ready to serve this multi-billion dollar sector?…

Perspective Possible reaction
Anyone listening for Basecamp, Zoho, Google Apps, Zimbra, ActiveCollab, ProjectPier, OpenGoo, Dot Project, Cyn.in, Confluence, Rockclimbr, Drupal, Yammer, Noodle, Present.ly, Collabtive, Trellis Desk, Achievo, or, Product Planner May comment, or, tweet
Anyone associated & listening for any of the above organizations Compares to current experience and may comment, tweet, or, contact Support too
Competitor’s Customer Compares to current experience and may comment, tweet, or, contact Support too
Competitor’s Community Manager May need to ask Support about features and possibly comment/tweet their own spin
Competitor’s Community Product Manager Compares to current feature-set & possibly comments/tweets their own spin else documents 1-line User Story for each missing feature. This example is really about architecture: “As an emerging market decision-maker for social software selection, I need a self-hosted solution, so my users need only intranet access since Internet access is not always available.”
Do you see the pattern?

Assuming the organization has a Community Manager then there may be an overlap in responsibilities with a Community Product Manager. However, this can be easily addressed with a little bit of collaboration. However beyond the overlap, a Community Product Manager could potentially extend the above scenarios by:

  1. Reviewing User Stories with their counter-part Product Manager & determine any course of action
  2. Engaging with the source and/or user community to elaborate and document the feature requirements
  3. Supporting the Product Manager in the feature development lifecycle thereby completing the Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life (see post title)
Panning the river for gold
Panning the River of News for gold

However, the most important pattern that emerged and lesson I learned was the one of Perspective. No doubt, even with the help of Radian6’s River of News, there’s a lot of work involved in mining for gold nuggets in cyberspace. But the beauty of striking these nuggets is that they’re environmentally friendly – they’re reusable! As illustrated in this post, one piece of content can yield dividends for many investors. It’s just a matter of perspective.

Up next

My next post will propose a Community Product Manager business model. I’d love to hear any of your ideas and will be more than happy to attribute and share them here.

Do the above scenarios and quotes help in providing concrete examples of where a Community Product Manager can add value to your development process? Do you need more? Do you have any examples of your own you could share with me?

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6 Replies to “Lessons learned from Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life – Part 2”

  1. Steven,

    This really is an interesting set of observations you’re putting together. One of the amazing evolutions of social media, to me, is how it’s generating a whole new set of hybrid disciplines inside enterprises, blurring lines of responsibility and cultivating new ones to respond to the conversations happening across the social web.

    The intelligence we can gather through social channels is immense, but as you pointed out, perspective and relevance are key elements. Ultimately, companies need to learn not only how to listen overall, but how to mine the vast amounts of information for the bits of knowledge that can really move needles for their business.

    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community | Radian6

  2. Hey Steven,

    As the person who is listening to the community and acting as our internal switch board. I make sure the insights gained from monitoring conversations are delivered to the right person on our product, marketing and support teams.

    What I am finding is that this is not a job for one person, rather the job of many. I totally agree with the premise of the community product manager and would argue these listening, synthesis and communication skills should be a job requirement for anyone in product management and marketing.

    What you are scratching the surface on is what is required to be an insights led organization.

    Nice work..

    Dirk Shaw
    Social Media Strategist, Vignette

  3. I agree with @dirkmshaw – watching and listening to the social space is a distributed function. That said, findings will likely coalesce around a particular individual. I like the idea you’re proposing of a Community Product Manager – it frames out a position that I think is beginning to naturally develop.

    That said, I think your post (and well-thought out examples) also underscore another important point: businesses must be mindful of information shared through social media. Top-tier companies keep their ears to the ground listening for hints, rumors, and murmurings not just from their target clients, but also from others with competitive offerings in their space. The old saw, ‘loose lips sink ships’ is perhaps now more true than ever. Social media offers a greenfield for gathering competitive intelligence. Could it be that part of the job of the Community Product Manager is also to ensure that only the right information (and possibly misinformation) is shared in a public venue?

  4. @AmberCadabra Thanks for your perspective 🙂

    @dirkmshaw Agreed. This is not the job for one person in an “insights led organization”. And in my opinion, a Community Product Manager could be a optional team member for some of those organizations. I’m guessing there’s at least the need for the shared services of a Community Product Manager for some of those, who are tight on resources. Thanks again for your always appreciated point-of-view.

    @timleonhardt Here’s a couple of thoughts regarding your “loose lips sink ships” point:

    1. As you and @dirkmshaw pointed out, this a “distributed function”. My guess is that someone more aligned with a Community Manager may be tasked with setting the record straight. Of course, in a distributed environment, it would be the team’s responsibility to raise the flag to whomever is filling that role.

    2. I’ve also noticed a little bit of buzz about Community Code of Conduct. I think this is a huge opportunity for organizations to be, not only proactive when it comes to “loose lips”, but proactive with their online presence. There should be clear & simple guidelines for those participating in this “distributed function” to ensure they, their listeners & the organization can share safe & pleasant experiences – which hopefully will encourage others to join/participate in the community.

    Thanks Tim & Dirk for your experience & thoughts!


  5. I have to be honest; I don’t really get it.

    PMs are responsible for listening to the market. Development doesn’t need another person telling them what to build.

    PMs should either:

    a) be leveraging existing social media tools as another channel to push ideas in to their funnel and;

    b) turning to product marketing to communicate the value prop and positioning using social media channels like they would any other.

    That’s just what PMs do – I guess I’m just not understanding why a PM focused on social media tools is really necessary? Isn’t that the equivalent of having a “Competitive Analysis Product Manager” or a “Win/Loss Product Manager?”

    I think I’m overlooking something about what’s being proposed…

  6. @AdamBullied
    As tweeted back & forth, I agree with you and the others; that listening is part of a product manager’s job description.

    I’m simply suggesting, based on my earlier posts and the one in particular about the Gartner report, that some social software vendors may require help in this area as they try to do more with less.

    What I’m proposing is a shared service. If this was a server, then I’d be suggesting server consolidation, or, virtualization 🙂

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