As part of my new research coverage that I'm calling product creation and innovation, I'm looking at big-picture ideas and themes that resonate with product strategists across a wide range of industries.  Sitting at the top of the list is the adoption of social technologies by consumer product strategists: It's a bona fide hot topic that has been critically important within Forrester's other role-based research; it is applicable to a wide range of consumer product and service companies; and it's something that many companies are just getting comfortable with. 

That last point was a hypothesis on our part initially, but we can now confirm it as so. In May of 2010, Forrester surveyed 181 consumer product strategy professionals from companies around the world in order to understand if and how they are currently implementing social strategies in the service of product creation and development. My recent "Product Strategists Want Social Innovation" report reveals the results of that survey, and the title makes no effort to mask the results: the use of social technologies by product strategy professionals is strong but not pervasive, and there are lots of unanswered questions out there.  Some interesting tidbits from that survey include:

  • Eighty-three percent of respondents indicate that their company uses social media to engage with consumers in some way, but fewer than half of those indicate that their product teams are currently using social media to influence product design, creation, or strategy.
  • Product teams use different social tools to engage with consumers than do companies on the whole who use social technologies.
  • Although more than two-thirds of product strategists have dedicated social managers or teams, fewer than one-fifth have formal policies in place for sharing data from social technologies with product teams.

The data also shows us that most product strategists believe social tools can enhance their ability to help shape product strategy, and that their company could do more with social media to influence product strategy than it currently does. While there are a handful of companies out there that have been leveraging social technologies to influence product strategy, the data indicates that for many product strategy professionals, it is still early days — they don't yet know how to leverage those technologies in their job. It's now my job to help them — and you? — understand the opportunities that exist for companies who adopt social technologies in order to influence product strategy.

As part of this research effort, I conducted nearly thirty interviews with willing individuals who participated in the survey.  That's just the tip of the iceberg, though, since just about every consumer product company I can think of can benefit by using social to improve product strategy. I welcome any product strategy professionals to reach out in the comments below or via email (dwilliams at forrester dot com) if you'd like to schedule an interview to discuss how your product team uses social media, the best practices that your team or organization has adopted, or the pitfalls that you've encountered.