Product Managers: Don't Believe The Lies Of Social Media

I like Twitter a lot. But the sustained, unwelcome deluge of Social Media Experts is pushing me dangerously close to a full-on berserker charge. And that’s no good for anyone.

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure those guys are immune to adamantium, so I thought we’d do something constructive instead.

See, what’s most insidious about these Social Media Experts isn’t their dubious credentials… it’s the misinformation and lies they bring to the table which people seem overly anxious to accept.

Increasingly, it seems like many companies are blindly chasing social media rather than integrating it appropriately into their long-term planning. They’re seduced by the hype, which is unfortunate since not everything online is what it seems.

For product managers, social media presents a different temptation.

Yes, social media done correctly in the PM sphere can help us hear about customer pain points, monitor the competition, and engage key influencers in the marketplace. But it comes at a cost that few seem willing to talk about.

As Emily F. Popek points out:

When we no longer greet our neighbors at the news stand, or chat with the record store clerk about the album we’re buying, we sacrifice something, however small. The paradox of the new media’s impact on our socialization lies in the fact that for each face-to-face interaction we sacrifice, we open up the possibility of connecting with thousands of like-minded people—albeit virtually—when we go online.

There can be no doubt that instant information access is transforming how businesses operate and how we do our jobs. Probably for the better. But there’s a cost.

Increasingly, it’s easier to email or tweet a partner/vendor/customer than to visit or call them–especially if there’s some kind of relationship there. Digital is easy. Fast.

And you know what else? It can feel terribly impersonal. Like your mother sending you a “Happy Birthday!” message on Facebook rather than phoning you or mailing you a card.

Social Media has the uncanny ability to bring us together while simultaneously keeping us worlds apart. As a product manager, the challenge is to balance the newfangled social networking with the old-fashioned social networking.

If you have something important to say–or important to ask–it may be better to be “old fashioned” and engage in person. Invite them to lunch. Arrange a face-to-face meeting. Send them a hand-written note. More than just good manners, it’s also a way to escape their over-flowing in-box(es) and get noticed.

As everything aside from our most basic biological functions migrates online, there may come a time when all of this becomes moot. Will that happen soon? Maybe, maybe not. For a definitive answer, ask a Social Media Expert like Matthew Robson. But do it before he becomes too big and stops returning your tweets.

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