What Twitter Has To Teach Product Managers

by drjim on August 11, 2014

Twitter has some important lessons for product managers

Twitter has some important lessons for product managers
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By now, everyone should know what Twitter is: the very popular Internet service that allows users to send messages that can be up 140 characters in length. Combine this with the ability to follow interesting people, resend what has been sent, and use #hashtags to identify interesting content and all of a sudden you have another one of those wildly successful Internet businesses. However, take a closer look at how Twitter operates and there just might be some lessons in all of this for product managers to learn from…

How To Be More Like Twitter

The popularity of Twitter needs to send a number of different messages to product managers. How the product was designed has a lot to do with how popular it has become. Every product manager, no matter what type of product we are responsible for, can emulate what the Twitter team has done. Twitter can show us things that need to be included in our own product development definition. Do this correctly, and you just might have something that you can add to your product manager resume. Here are the most important product features for you to follow:

  • Keep It Open: The Twitter tool was designed from the beginning to be very open and available to its users. Twitter content is both available and archived on the web for any and all to see. What the Twitter product management team discovered is that if you make everything available to your customers, they may start to use your product in ways that you could never have anticipated. This can lead to additional ways to grow your market.
  • Work Anywhere: The Twitter service is considered to be “cross-platform” which means that it works on any computer, running any operating system. When you are designing your product make sure that you don’t limit who can use it or what infrastructure they need to have in order to become your customer.
  • Be Able To Grow: Twitter could never have anticipated how fast and how large they would grow. However, their product design allowed this to happen. As product managers we need to take the time to dream of a future in which our product becomes very popular. What would we have to do in order to prepare for this to happen?

Learn From How Twitter Works

Not only has Twitter been a well-designed product, but the functionality that it delivers has changed how people communicate. As product managers we need to understand that Twitter provides us with a brand new tool that we can use to both listen to our customers and interact with them. Here are several suggestions on how product managers can use Twitter to do this:

  • Listen, Listen, Listen: One of Twitter’s great features is that it can be easily searched. As a product manager you need to take the time to search it using product related words and phrases. Listen in on Twitter chats, create lists of people that you would like to become your customers, and keep an eye on your competition.
  • Become Valuable: Send out (“tweet”) useful information that is related to your product and your market. Use Twitter to provide your potential customers with invitations, incentives, and important product updates.
  • Study: Analyze and track how your potential customers use Twitter. Come to understand how the timing and the headlines that you use influence how effective your tweets are. Study what it takes to get your messages retweeted. Study what level of community engagement you are able to achieve.
  • Keep It Real: When you exchange messages with your potential customers, make sure that they know that they are talking with a human. Use this to develop trust with your customers.

What All Of This Has To Do With You

Twitter has become an overnight sensation. This Internet communication service came out of nowhere and has become a part of many people’s everyday life. How Twitter operates and how people use it can provide product managers with insights on how to better manage their own products.

Even though this is not yet a part of your product manager job description, product managers need to take steps to make their product emulate the best qualities of Twitter. This means that they need to be very concise when they talk about their products – cut out all of the fluff. They need to make sure that their products are open, cross-platform and scalable. Additionally, by taking a look at how people use Twitter product managers can learn more about how to make their products successful.

The Twitter phenomenon happened because Twitter filled a need that people had not previously known existed. Product managers need to take the time to learn from what Twitter has taught us. Adopt these Twitter-based suggestions and perhaps your product will become as popular as Twitter is!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What steps could you take to make your marketing material more concise?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Any time the company completes the creation of a new product, or a new version of an existing product, it’s time to launch the new offering. Hmm, now exactly how should we go about doing this? There’s nothing in the product development definition that tells us how to do it correctly. All too often the new product just gets “thrown out there” and we all keep our fingers crossed that it will be a success. It turns out that there is a much better way to launch a product that will boost your product’s chances of being a success…

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