20 year content strategy veteran, Sharon Burton. Sharon Burton consults about content strategy, content business issues, social media and managing post-sales customer experience issues.

Social Media and Product Docs Results Available

Social Media and Product Docs Results Available

This fall, I ran an opinion poll, asking people how they use social media if and when the product documentation fails them. I’m curious if people tap the “hive mind” to figure something out. I’m also curious about what people do, if they do tap social media for help.

The results

The results are in and compiled and available to you here as a free PDF. Nearly every question had room for people to select Other and suggest their own answer and to make comments, if they wished. If you want to see the full comments, the paid (e-book) version ($5.00 US) of the results include the full comments. Go to Amazon.com or bn.com and purchase it.

Overall, the results show that people are not really using social media to help with products. If they do, they have tried all other sources first, such as going to the manufacturers site, googling for answers, and others.

If they do post something to their social media, they don’t expect the  company to respond, but if the company does respond, this makes people feel good. I suggest that best of breed companies watch social media and support their customers there.


Because the total number of respondents was not large, this is a tough one to extrapolate out to the population as a whole. I think this poll is more suggestive than anything else. But there are some interesting things to think about out of these results.

A note about these polls

I’ve gotten some feedback when I publicize these polls. I’ve had complaints that:

  1. I’m trying to gather email names for some purpose
  2. I’m trying to increase my web site traffic stats for some purpose
  3. I’m trying to make myself rich
  4. I’m going to direct email people for some reason

Let me address these concerns.

  1. All my opinion polls are anonymous, in that I have no idea who is responding. In the very rare case where someone includes their contact info in the Comments (despite instructions to not do that), I delete it before I can actually notice what it says. The only tracking I do is drop a cookie on your computer so that the same IP address cannot respond twice.
  2. My web site doesn’t have advertising and it’s hosted by my brother. I don’t much care about traffic stats. In fact, my brother is very happy when I don’t get thousands of daily visitors because my server is not set up for that load. I get the little sister discount but I have to be good to continue it.
  3. I’m self employed. I pay out of pocket for the web service that runs my polls. I write the polls myself over the course of several weeks. I do all the advertising and social media work to get the word out. When the poll is over, I compile and write up the results. I create my own PDFs and eBooks and get them all uploaded. Any webinar I run about the results is also paid out of pocket by me. I estimate when I run a poll, I lose between $1,000 and $3,000 in lost billable time and direct expenses. I sell the full results for $5 US and perhaps sell 50 copies. If this is my get rich plan, it’s not a very good plan.
  4. Related to 1 above, I have no idea who is responding to the polls, so I can’t direct email you. I don’t want to email you anything to try to sell you to anything.

So why am I doing these?

I want the answers to some questions I’ve had about what people are doing around product documentation. That’s why I’m putting the money and effort into these polls. I’m at a place where I can afford to start getting these answers and the technology exists to make it easier.

I’m in the technical communications world because I’m deeply interested in what and how people use technology to solve problems. That’s why I do these polls.

Now, if you want to find out more about your users, that’s something I can help you do. But that’s not why I’m doing this.

By Sharon Burton

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