At a recent games conference, I met a local entrepreneur who I’m connected to on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This was the first time we’d met face-to-face and I couldn’t help noting aloud that, “It’s so nice to finally meet you; we’re friends everywhere except real life.”
He gave me a weird look, but then acknowledged, “Yeah, this is the new age we’re living in.”
I can’t believe this show got approved for a second season. Image source: ABC
I think about that a lot.
Not that particular conversation, per se, but that feeling.
As a product manager and as a person, I’m meeting new people all the time online. I’ve made that part of my job because a) it’s fun, and b) it’s incredibly useful.
Thanks to the various and sundry social media channels available today, there’s no shortage of information relating to customer problems, desires, and pain points.
But, are we really friends?
Or are we all just dating in the dark?
In the last six months, I’ve probably personally interacted with around 500 customers through email, blog posts, Twitter, and Facebook. There is real value in those interactions (hopefully for both parties!).
Although, as a person, I wonder — in this new age of omnipresent digital connection, are we just clutching to illusions of intimacy?
I mean, I have 100+ friends on Facebook, but how many do I actually, meaningfully interact with on a regular basis? Technology lets us stay in constant contact with many people; the trade off appears to be quantity for quality.
As a product manager, I wonder the same thing: I have a broader picture of the market, which is great, but sometimes it also feels shallower.
What to do?
Like with most things, balance is probably the key — keeping the broad understanding but coupling it with opportunities for deeper interactions with customers to better understand what they need and how we can help.
However, that seems easier typed into cyberspace for 2.5k anonymous monthly visitors to read on my personal blog than to actually do in the real world.
For more thoughts on this topic, please see Jon Gatrell’s recent talk on PMs taking a more strategic approach to social media…
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