Monday, April 19, 2010

ProductCamp, Relationship Building and Social Media


It's Monday and if you follow some of Dan Zarella's work, you know that you're to tweet for maximum RT effect today and on Friday.  Yes yes... I'm grossly oversimplifying this.  He's done extensive validated research on the topic, he is clearly a master and I'm still learning.

Learning brings me to ProductCamp and, more specifically, ProductCamp Chicago (here).  Have you heard of it or been to one?  For those new to ProductCamp, it's popularly called an unconference because it's fee free for those who attend with content volunteered and presented by the participants.  It's an opportunity for product managers, marketers, entrepreneurs, job hunters and anyone else interested to come together, share ideas, brainstorm others and walk away with new perspectives and new contacts.  

You're welcome as a newbie or a veteran (regardless of your industry or affiliation) and both have equal weight in voting for the proposed topics that are presented.  The other nice thing about ProductCamp is that it's a big no no to pitch, sell or any variant of the two.  You're there to learn and share solely.  It's a safe environment.  You can learn more about it here.  And, there is this video by Paul Terry Walhus from #pca10 (that's the March 27 ProductCamp Austin) that features product marketers and entrepreneurs.  The comments are very interesting so I recommend a viewing.

Are you wondering if this is a plug for something I support?  Well... sort of.  This post is really borne of two items I read on Mitch Joel's blog this past weekend.  The first one has a link to an Atlantic article from July, 1945 and is a call for channelling our creative innovative energies and imagining the future based on our present and past.  It's inspiring considering it was written when World War II was winding down and scientists were ready to use their gifts for the greater good as opposed to warmaking.  It's also very applicable to the optimistic and innovative character of ProductCamp (demonstrated in the video).

The other one was about Social Capital and how technology platforms often delude us into believing that we have more social capital equity than we actually have.  We often make requests of others who barely know us or what we can bring to the table.  In the real world, we'd never ask someone we've just met only moments ago for $20 and if we did, we'd likely get a polite refusal.  So why is it that we're asking for someone's endorsement (via RT or other) in the online space?  Here's what he has to say:

"Social Media is not an open network.  It's a community.  And, like any community, you have to earn your stripes within it.  You have to make deposits into the community.  You have to add value.  You have to make yourself present, so that when you do have a request, the people being asked are proud and happy to help you in your initiative.  ...  you don't build community because you need it, you build community slowly, over a long period of time, so that when you do need something, it is there for you.  It doesn't really work the other way around."

In my last post, we talked about engagement as an online as well as offline requirement.  We have to develop a three dimensional, symbiotic relationship.  The argument behind the Authenticity Touch Point quote from Jim Matorin is that your success is embedded in both the depth and the breadth of your relationships which only can be delivered through online and offline exchanges.  As I mentioned before (which also quotes Mitch Joel), relationships are derived from delivered value and earned trust.  Without either, we won't go very far.

How do I know this is true?  Well, Yoda (introduced here) and I spent 45 minutes on the phone talking about some business ideas we have with some follow ups to take place shortly.  But for this belief we both have in three dimensional relationships, this business idea would never have materialized let alone have work initiated against it.  Here's an excerpted quote from Yoda that I shared previously:

"Count on personal relationships to carry you farther.  The new economy is not just about the exchange of information; it's about the exchange of relationships.  ...  To break through that noise, to get your message out, count on personal networks.  Relationships are the most powerful form of media."

And it's not just me who sees benefits to relationships.  ProductCamps have been very successful since the first one held in Silicon Valley (2008).  One might ask why they've grown as fast as they have and spread as far as they have (Australia).  The content exchange builds and maintains the community described by Mitch Joel.  Despite technology as a communications platform, there is a certain X factor involved in the development and exchange of information; when groups of people come together, form a community, contribute to conversations, introduce new concepts or build on great ideas, relationships are formed. If you watch the video all the way through, each person expresses these thoughts in their own way.  There's something to be said for creating Authenticity Touch Points and making deposits into the community.

Please consider signing up for ProductCamp Chicago if you'll be in town.  And, more importantly, please propose topics for discussion. The one not proposed might be the one we all need the most.  It'd be a thrill to see you there and participate!


Parissa Behnia


  1. I went to Product Camp New York last July,, excellent experience, meet PMS + entrepreneurs + PM process experts and network and learn. Is there a date for PC Chicago?

  2. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for that positive comment! Glad to hear that ProductCamp was a good experience! We're shooting for a June 19 (tentative) date and will make final site selection this week. If you'd like to learn more, please do click on the ProductCamp Chicago and Eventbrite links in the post. Also, feel free to shoot me an email with more questions:


    Parissa Behnia

  3. Parissa:

    Interesting tip. Thank you. Sounds like a great way to connect, then continue engagement with fellow mavens.