The times, they are a changin’….a notion famously expressed by Bob Dylan some 50 odd years ago, and one that can be applied to organizations’ and their product development practices as a result of social media. In recent years, technological advancements have changed the socio-economic landscapes for organizations, and have created an ever competitive and complex market. Social media is playing a pivotal role, with an unprecedented rate of adoption that surpasses conventional tools such as the radio, telephone, television etc. Companies across all industries are having to use social media in product development in order to stay current on fine-tuned market needs and trends. Social media offers the potential to significantly improve a business’s performance. It is being used by companies to not only communicate to their customers, but also to learn about their customers, in hopes of advancing product development.
Today people use social media to interact with one another regardless of geographic boundaries, easily sharing information, discussing common interest, collaborating on ideas, and building a network of relationships. Consumer are also using their social networks to seek advice, discuss and offer recommendations on products and services. Companies who are engaging in social media strategies aimed at facilitating engagement and two-way conversations (crowdsourcing) with customers provide insight that can and does impact product design, development and even the production of goods and services. This ability to gain product feedback in a relatively inexpensive way is quickly becoming one of social media’s biggest benefits. Monitoring social networks is a good first step to using social media in product development. Product designers and managers can not only learn what customers like an don’t like about their products but can also get ideas on improvements as well as what new features and functions might appeal to consumers in the future. A company that is not only using the wisdom of social listening for product development but was also built on crowdsourcing is Sundial Brands. Sundial Brands learned early on that listening and acting upon what was said was one of the clearest ways to show that the brand cared. The Sundial Brand Story Born in Liberia, Sundial Brands CEO Richelieu Dennis came to the United States to attend renowned business school Babson College. Driven by his passion for entrepreneurship and sustained by a vision to fill unmet consumer needs, Richelieu partnered with his best friend and college roommate, Nyema Tubman, to pursue a bold concept: address skin and hair care issues traditionally ignored by mass market companies. Drawing from deep traditions born out of his family’s roots in Africa and passed down to him from his grandmother, Richelieu incorporated four generations of recipes, wisdom and cultural experiences into natural bath and body care products, co-founding Sundial with his mother – Mary Dennis – and Nyema. Sundial remains true to the deep family legacy and inspiration of Richelieu’s grandmother, Sofi Tucker. Building upon her foundation, Sundial’s products are inclusive, serving all people to address underserved issues such as hyperpigmentation, dark spots and the special needs of textured hair, as well as consumer demands for efficacious natural products.
In a command centre in General Motor’s Detroit headquarters, the employees scanning a bank of monitors are making a vital contribution to GM’s product lifecycle management. But they’re not designing new models or developing the next product launch. They’re listening. The command centre is part of GM’s Centre of Excellence (CoE) and the employees are members of a team of 30 “social media customer care advisers”. These individuals use social listening tools to follow customer conversations on 150+ brand social channels for GM, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac as well as 85 forums where car buffs congregate. But the team are more than electronic eavesdroppers and they’re doing much more than just monitoring tweets and likes and collecting data. These social listeners actively engage with potential and current customers, helping to amplify positive feedback and rectify negative customer experiences. In a post on Hootsuite, Christina Newberry notes that while social monitoring “is focused more on metrics, like engagement rate, number of mentions, and so on, … social listening looks beyond the numbers at the overall mood behind the social media posts—how people actually feel about you, your competitors, and your industry. [It can] help you see trends over time that can keep your future marketing and product development efforts on track.“ Here are three ways GM is using social listening in the launch, post-launch and support phases of product development.
To a child of the ’80s it still seems unbelievable that vacations today are researched and booked almost exclusively online. I remember visiting travel agencies with my parents. I can recall flipping through the glossy pages of snazzy magazines, always trying to sneak that Disney booklet into a place of prominence on the agent’s desk. I can picture how every “Sunshiny Holidays” guide was divided into country-specific sections, and hotels had a single picture depicting what they were all about. One picture. That was all. To help with the limited visuals were 5-7 sentence descriptions written by the proprietors themselves. So you’d thumb through the guide, gaze at the photos and dutifully try to convince your parents to choose the spot with the best-looking pool. All the while the agent typed away on her keyboard, telling you what was available and at what price. It felt like a simpler time, even if it was a comparatively powerless one for consumers. Alas, I won’t be offering the same memories to my kids (hey!…remember when Mom spent 4 hours staring at her cellphone reading reviews for our one-day getaway to Great Wolf Lodge?). The limited technological sophistication available “back then” unfortunately meant very limited access to accurate, reliable information when booking a holiday. Transforming the Industry The transformation of the Tourism & Hospitality industry caused by the influence and upsurge of social media is nothing short of astounding. Approximately one-fifth of leisure travelers worldwide turn to social media platforms for inspiration within different categories of their travel planning including: Hotels (23%) Vacation activities (22%) Attractions (21%) Restaurants (17%). Along with these sweeping changes, the Travel Marketing Industry has had to adapt to the ever-shifting landscape, finding innovative ways for determining how to create desirable experiences, and secure a high number of bookings. As early as 2011, Ryan McElroy, a recognized leader in the travel and hospitality industry, discovered that many travel agencies were still operating from old blueprints. They were missing opportunities to generate bookings because they weren’t harnessing the social media and digital platforms available. As a solution, McElroy created Travel Agency Tribes. Travel Agency Tribes is a SaaS (software as a service) company that creates all the technology required to make a travel agency’s online presence dynamic, easy to update, and adept at crossing all the new channels that today’s savvy travel consumer expects. This Canadian company has its ear firmly glued to the ground. It’s leveraging the very best that social media… Read more »
A powerful component of social media from a business perspective is the ability to listen to what consumers are saying. Social listening technologies are available to track conversations around specific phrases, words or brands. As a result, companies are able to identifying new opportunities that may not have been on their radar, and many are responding with innovative product development or design. Twenty-five years ago, it would have been costly and time consuming to gather focus groups in order to gain feedback. But today, this valuable market information can be gathered in a matter of minutes—assuming of course that people are in fact talking about your brand. The food industry is a specific sector where product development is critical to success. There are a number of reasons why this specific industry is constantly creating new products or innovating existing ones. I chatted with my colleague, Karen Proper, who is a technical manager in the product and process development department at NSF International to gain more insight on this topic. Karen and her team work with clients in the food and beverage industry to help bring a product concept to life, overcome production challenges or to innovate an existing one. When asked why product development is so integral to business, especially in the food industry, Karen replied, “Product development keeps companies competitive in the marketplace, compliant to regulations, able to react to ingredient and manufacturing process changes, and also responsive to trends and consumer demands—all of which are critical to success in the food industry today.”
DeWALT Inc. is a leading worldwide consumer power tool company, founded in 1924 and acquired by Stanley Black & Decker in 1960. Currently, DeWALT manufactures and sells more than 200 different power hand-tools and 800 accessories. (Wikipedia, 2016). When DeWALT became a customer of Canadian company Vision Critical Communications Inc., an online Insight Community was launched and it would forever change how they develop and design their products.
Social front end product development is a concept that is gaining traction in the business world. Why? Because it yields off the charts results! Front-end product development involves using social media to gain valuable insights on what customers want. But, it’s not just about social listening, it’s about engaging clients directly in the creation and development of a product or service.
Organization Name: Dell Inc. Industry – Computing Technology Contacts: Richard Binhammer, Shree Dandekar – Senior Director of Business, Intelligence and Analytics at Dell Software, Bill Johnston, Dell’s Director of Global Online Communities, Barton George – Director of Dell Computer Division Web references – Dell, Social Media Explorer, USA today, Hub Spot, Briefings Direct, Youtube, Readwrite About Dell Dell is a privately owned multinational computer… Read more »
Organization Name: C&A Marketing Industry: Online Retail Web References: Website Description of how social media is used for business performance Some of the most famous examples of social media for product development come from the food industry – for example, the Lay’s Do Us a Flavour flavour creation competition (and many similar competitions, like Mountain Dew’s Dewmocracy),or the Doritos’ Crash the… Read more »
Organization: Pizza Pizza Industry: Food Services Web references: www.pizzapizza.ca, Facebook, Twitter, www.hootsuite.com, www.entrepreneur.com Loyalty lost One March evening, Christine C., a resident of Kitchener, Ontario, decided to order pizza for her family. She chose Pizza Pizza, a favourite pizza place, during their free movie deal promotion. It was a win-win for her family with pizza that night and… Read more »
Organization: Wilfrid Laurier University Industry: Post-secondary education Contacts: Melissa Stephens, Laurier’s manager of marketing and communications – recruitment and admissions, firstname.lastname@example.org; Sandra Muir, Laurier’s social media strategist, email@example.com Web references: Wilfrid Laurier University and its social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram, as well as other sources with links posted throughout this blog entry. Like any suitor… Read more »
Organization: Ikea Industry: Retail Web References: PSFK – Professional Search for Knowledge, HVAS Worldwide, Bazaarvoice Incorporated, Social@Ogilvy, IKEA UK In Bed with Brand – How IKEA Turned a Facebook Group Into Customer Engagement Success 20 years ago, sales and marketing success hinged on finding potentials clients through individual business networks, making one-on-one connections with those prospects and convincing them that… Read more »
What is social listening? Social listening, by definition, is the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product, or brand across all social media channels. Information is collected and analyzed to evaluate opportunities to shift business focus and strategy. In plain language, social listening is using social media to hear what your consumers really… Read more »
Groupon is a company that offers coupons and deals to its users on a daily basis. The premise behind Groupon is to use customer feedback to gauge demand for products and services. Interested parties purchase the coupon and only if enough people buy in does it become redeemable. This means the end users determine which coupons are redeemable and which… Read more »
Organization Name: Kraft Foods; Nielson Web references: http://www.kraftrecipes.com/home.aspx http://www.nielsen.com/us/en.html When Kraft started looking at the burger industry as a potential market they turned to market research powerhouse Nielson for help with engaging with their audience via “social listening” In the process they not only learned about product trends and emerging flavours but also about the life-style persona of an at-home… Read more »