When I was a young man, I spent several summers working in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Just for the record, that's a great place to spend a summer "working". In Wyoming, there is a local animal called the Jackalope. This mythical beast represented the convergence of a jackrabbit and an antelope; the result is scary, and at the same time kind of exciting. Today we are witnessing the convergence of Social Media and PLM, the result is: Social PLM; which is both scary, and kind of exciting!
There are several aspects to Social PLM: the first is, the customer. At the front end of the product design process there are tools used to gather customer opinions about your products. Many Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools try to figure out what the customer wants, and gather requirements. Today, your customers are saying more than ever!
You must have a tool that can gather what your customers say on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, blogs, and other social platforms. Then you must be able to aggregate all this information, get rid of the noise, and perform analysis that provides usable data that can impact your products. Customer requirements must also be managed and tracked throughout the product design process, and frequently tested against. This is not easy to do, and tools that can do this well are hard to find.
The next aspect is the ability to manage your product as it is developed. Allowing customers to give input to prototypes, and other ideas early in the design process is a possibility with many collaborative social media tools. There is also the need to provide a very social platform for your employees to share information and collaborate on your products. This is NOT email! This is something more like Facebook that works internally with Twitter-like features that supports ad-hoc communication, blogs, posts, follows, and provides tracking, feedback, and analysis.
Finally, you need a good mechanism to track all the information that is generated about your product once it is shipped. Tools that track all social outlets, gather pertinent information, provide aggregation, and analysis are essential to understand if your product is really delighting your customers. With this type of tool you will know what is being said about your product, both positive, and negative. Analysis of this information can lead to updates to existing products, modified new products, or tap your knowledge to create a completely new product that you know customers will want.
In the one minute you've been reading this blog, 60 hours of video has been uploaded to Youtube, 650,000 status updates have appeared on Facebook, 98,000 tweets have been tweeted; were any of these about your products or services? Do you know? Do you care? You should. Don't let the same fate as the Jackalope befall you: he is stuffed and on my mantel now.
Is social media just a fad that will go away soon? What do you think?