Most aficianados of social media emphasize the customer-facing applications of these technologies. By now, we've all heard interesting stories about how Marketing used blogs to get the message out, Sales used forum postings to help qualify leads, and Support used Twitter to respond to users wrestling with technical problems.

Exciting, new-frontierish stuff, to be sure, but you hear far less about Development's social media strategy. What about the "inbound" applications of social media?

That question was my inspiration for what turned into a three-part series on "inbound social media." The first research document appeared today (Forrester subscription required to read the whole enchilada). The second and third parts are coming shortly.

A lot of development teams are skeptical about their company's investment in social media. Frankly, they don't see what's in it for them. Worse, it threatens to be a distraction from their mission to execute, execute, execute.

But, as I found, social media fills an important informational gap, as long as you're willing to make the commitment to taking it seriously. You may have already heard my rants about traditional sources of product requirements, and why they stink on ice. (And believe you me, I speak from firsthand experience on that topic, as well as the vicarious experience of many PMs I've interviewed in this job.) If not, here's a sample.

The first document in this series is really a summary of why Dev teams should take social media seriously, and how they'll have to adapt to use it effectively. For example, inbound social media are a mechanism for answering questions, some of which will be ongoing, and some of which will be ad hoc. Most development teams (broadly defined to include QA, Doc, and PM) don't necessarily have the right organization and habits to juggle both of these types of inquiry. Driven by release schedules, teams focus on the questions relevant to the next release–not necessarily the bigger questions that span releases. Social media can address both kinds of questions, but teams will have to make some adjustments to find these answers.

Many technology companies will have to change the way they make product decisions. I used to annoy the heck out of stakeholders by saying, "If we've reached a question that we can settle empirically, then let's shut up and find the answer." Not everyone wants to sacrifice their dearly-held opinions, or their freedom of action within the organization, on the altar of the scientific method. But that wrenching change may be necessary for these teams to survive and prosper, given the challenges of convincing customers to buy and adopt new technologies.

[Cross-posted at The Heretech.]