Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager: Activate Your Advocates
Product management is an influence discipline.
Because product and brand managers typically have little direct-line authority over budget or resource, catalyzing others to act in a desired way is the name of the game. This is true both inside your organization and, for the social product manager, externally as well.
The product manager is typically the de facto leader of a federated organization, with each individual participant acting on independent thinking but sharing common ideas and objectives. This chapter explores how to activate your advocates as influencers. Both internal and external people you touch are also influencers—on colleagues, customers, prospects, and industry figures.
To emphasize the point, many of the insights in this chapter and beyond originate from influencers: IBM customers, partners who make their living through IBM technology, or IBMers who are not product managers. All of these contributors volunteered to write about the social product manager from their own point of view. As a bonus, their participation originated socially, after learning about this book project online.
Product management leadership is about more than your title. In any organization and market, a product manager has to develop credibility and authority through good ideas, excellent communication, and solid data or supporting evidence. Building a following—those internally and externally tuned into the product manager’s thoughts and ideas—takes time. Success comes through building a track record of reliable, beneficial ideas and decisions, and ultimately delivers positive results for your product and the individuals who help build it and deliver it Your network and organization are more likely to be influenced and follow your leadership when you take them on a path of proven success.
Social business leadership is more than simply getting on Twitter, starting a Facebook page, and creating a blog. The core social business principle of engagement reenters the equation. Engagement that results in interactive dialogue, both externally and internally, is a key foundation for success. All too often, ineffective marketers and product managers use these social tools as check box activities, believing that if they tweet a link or post a blog entry they are being “social.” Instead, two-way communication is the basis for building a following.
The unique voice of the social product manager offers the opportunity to build credibility and, therefore, audience. Your communication through social networks, internally and externally, needs to offer differentiated value for others to choose to pay attention. If you are sharing files (inside or outside) your organization, they should offer more than just standard marketing messages.
The more you provide information and insight that nobody else provides, the more influence and audience you will build. A successful leader can then convert that audience into extensions of the social product manager—having an army of advocates who will engage in offense or defense, pick a fight, or simply amplify messages to even broader markets and audiences.