Imagine being in a room filled with people who have used your product and people who may use it in the future. Would you just lurk in the corner and listen to what they have to say, or join the conversation, learn about their pain points and ask for their thoughts on the product? The social media revolution of the last decade provides product managers with numerous ways to do all of the above. In order to stay in touch with target audiences, product managers need to learn to harness the power of this direct line of communication to the benefit of their product.
This blog has stressed before the value of user feedback and the importance of customer feedback management. There is really nothing more vital in the product developing process than getting information on the needs of your potential users and reviews from current ones. At the initial stages of product development, suggestions from the same people for whom you are building your product can trigger ideas in your team or present issues you’ve been debating over in a new light. Gathering feedback is also incredibly helpful for constructing accurate user personas that will serve to guide you along the way. When you already have a product on the market, communicating with users is crucial not just to gather their feedback, but to build a community of advocates. Letting your clients know that you care about their opinion makes them feel appreciated and opens the door for conversation. Even negative reviews can be surprising sources of wisdom if we learn to look past harsh phrasing and address the issues at the heart of the matter.
Tapping into the right conversations can provide product managers with valuable insights, but getting in touch with actual users isn’t always that easy. Focus groups and customer surveys are tried and tested ways to create a dialogue between developers and users, but in the tech-oriented world, these seem outdated. In the past, companies faced the challenge of locating relevant audiences and engaging in a fruitful conversation with them. The internet has flipped the problem on its head, as the challenge now is sifting through the endless stream of chatter to gather valuable insights while producing fruitful dialogue with your clients.
The following is a list of recommended steps towards utilizing social media as a way to always staying up to date with your users’ needs:
The first step of employing social media to your benefit is learning how to properly listen to what’s being said. There are many ways to do this that range from the most rudimentary to the complex. Needless to say, the first step is simply jumping in there and staying up to date. As a product manager it’s essential that you join the social conversation in your field: read blog posts, join Facebook groups, follow relevant hashtags, connect with thought leaders on Linkedin etc… The next step is diving deeper to find what your actual customers are saying. There are now several available Social Listening tools that help you find out who’s talking about your brand and even analyze the tone of that mention. But even without advanced tools, scouring the internet to feel the mood of the audience should be an essential part of your work routine.
Everyone knows that a business needs social media channels that act as the front window, through which shoppers can peek in and asses the produce. But as social media is often managed by a separate function within the company, it’s easy to forget the vital role these channels have in gathering user feedback. Your social media strategy should be closely tied to your user feedback management. Social networks are a great place to ask users what are they thinking and start a real conversation about their needs. Another important function is monitoring comments and private messages received through the networks, as it’s often the first place users turn to when they are not happy with a product. Taking the time to personally engage with commenters may be tiresome, but it makes a real difference in how you are perceived by your users.
After establishing media channels that provide an open line of communication for users it’s time to focus on finding that smaller group of people who will serve as brand advocates for your product. Social networks have been shifting the focus towards interest groups and communities as these have proved to be hubs of conversations. Creating a community around your product may take a lot of effort, but its an immensely powerful method of gaining social proof. Establishing a close-knit circle of users can serve as a modern version of the focus group, which you can leverage for testing different product features or launching customer surveys.
Following social media and connecting with potential users is important, but it’s nothing without systematic tracking that allows for further research. Analyzing your social channels’ performance over time is vital in order to get a sense of the quality of your connection with followers. Social networks have an analytics feature built in, allowing your business to get an idea of its performance and deeper insights into what type of customer you engage. However, if the data collected from your multiple feedback channels remains scattered, you won’t be able to see the full picture. Collecting it in a single database, for streamlined access, analysis and action will help avoid customer data getting lost, while facilitating collaboration between product managers on customer-related tasks and projects.
After years of confronting these needs ourselves, we at Craft created the Learn tool, which allows you to collect, categorize and manage user feedback easily and methodically. Over time, it offers product teams a way to organize their feedback items in one place and turn them into actionable items, in the wider relevant context of the product.
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