The following guest post appeared on the Techrigy blog in June 2009.
It’s exciting to watch as the value of social media is being revealed in layers: one layer, the now somewhat wide recognition of the value of monitoring social media as a means to follow what people are saying about ones products and/or brands; another, less common, but gaining in popularity, active participation in social media circles to engage with the public a la Whole Foods and Southwest Airlines on Twitter.
And now, the newest layer: using social media to help guide smart product/service development. A minority of companies (savvy ones, to say the least) are turning to social media as a means to run customer-led innovation initiatives. One of the most talked about examples of the moment is Del Monte’s launch of Pup-Peroni, which is featured in a video case study at Advertising Age. The piece tells of how the company used a collaborative online community to successfully launch the Pup-Peroni dog snacks in six weeks. It’s an excellent example of customer-led innovation played out within social media. Del Monte isn’t the only company using this family of model to make innovation a community exercise that taps into the creativity and user-driven suggestions of its lead customers.
But there’s another angle to using social media to find your lead customers, and to tap into what they have already said – and are saying – to help guide product/service development; to help companies better understand what their – your — customers need. As researchers, what we realize (and have realized through work we are doing for our clients) is that for many, many companies, a mass of information that holds precisely these clues exists online, though often buried in niche communities. Locating these communities and analyzing their conversation for insights that can help guide smarter product/service development is precisely what do for our clients.
At the Social Studies Group, we are digging deeply in exploration of the tastes, ideas and opinions that can help companies guide product/service development. As researchers, we are immersed in this task. And as researchers, we are repeatedly fascinated by what we continue to find.
We recently completed a project for a national consumer foods company in connection with a product that has not been as successful as they had hoped. Our job was to collect information that would help guide the development of a follow-up product. A second assignment saw us collecting consumer opinions around an existing media-related product; the purpose: to help ensure that its next iteration mirrors readers’ interest.
The task of locating these communities and relevant conversations almost always begins with monitoring. For instance, we know first-hand that SM2 holds vast potential for uses far beyond simply gauging the popularity of ones brand. The key is knowing how to design your search in order to arrive at the results that will lead to the most valuable insights. In this case, the information that reveals your customers’ real needs and translates to smarter product/service development.
Wendy Goldman Scherer
Wendy founded Scherer Cybrarian in 1995. She knew from her years as a partner with Bozell Worldwide that there was a great need for knowledge synthesis and business research that was more than a mere information dump. The business has grown and expanded over the years to include primary research, GIS, news aggregation and monitoring, and much more. But what she loves the most is social media research. (Don’t laugh. Everyone should love their work as much as Wendy does!) Scherer has been working with clients for many years now on social media monitoring and reporting and, best of all, social focal reporting.