The importance of social media for product developers

Via comments made by some of our Perchers on Twitter I discovered this post by EllisLab. One of my main tips to people wanting to launch a product is “talk to people on Twitter”, and so here are some thoughts for other product developers as to how we use Twitter for Perch and how important it has been.

Twitter is not for technical support

EllisLab point out that Twitter is not the place for in-depth technical support and we would agree with that wholeheartedly. If someone @ replies the grabaperch account or one of our personal accounts asking for help we generally ask them to raise a ticket or post to the forum. Much of our support involves posting chunks of code or the Diagnostic Report from a Perch install, we can’t do that via Twitter. Sometimes however all someone needs is a quick link to documentation, and it would be silly to ask them to raise a ticket in that case!

Giving a product or company a personality

I could write an entire post on the importance of giving your product or company a personality. Moo do this incredibly well right through their communications and also in their use of Twitter and other social media. We try to do this with Perch, trying to maintain a cheerfulness and simplicity in our communications. Sometimes we are a little bit cheeky (as befits a little yellow bird) and the account does in many ways reflect our personalities too. We love what we do, and enjoy having fun being Perch.

Don’t just broadcast

A lot of our use of Twitter for Perch is essentially broadcast, keeping people up to date with what we are doing. However we also engage with people from the grabaperch account where appropriate. For example if a customer is asking about hosting we will ask our community to make suggestions. If a Percher has tweeted about their new Perch powered site and it is particularly interesting we might retweet that. We also ask questions of Perchers, and get feedback. Twitter is great for a quick survey of users on a particular point.

Be visible when things are going wrong

After we launched Perch 2, our PSP started throwing errors as people were trying to buy upgrades. There was nothing we could do to fix the problem, the errors were happening after the customer had left our server and meant that licenses were not being automatically assigned after payment and users were sometimes paying twice. All we could do was fix the problems as we saw them happening and Twitter helped us to keep on top of the situation. We replied to anyone who was struggling as quickly as possible, and posted messages explaining we knew there was a problem.

If something is going wrong, your customers and potential customers are going to be on Twitter talking about it. If you are there too you can help people quickly and demonstrate to anyone watching that you are doing that.

Twitter shows you are available

I think one of the most important things about Twitter, and responding to your customers or users of your service on Twitter, is that it shows you are available and happy to talk. It demonstrates your availability not only to the person you are responding to, but also to anyone else listening in. Any person who is wondering if they should use your product can see that you respond in a timely, friendly manner.

As small product companies we have a huge advantage in terms of our social media use, over larger companies. Rather than someone being employed to “do social media” the person or people behind any Twitter account are the product developers. Therefore we can give truly accurate advice, even use comments made on social media to improve our products directly. This is much harder once the developers and owners are one step removed from the customers.

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