Can Social Media be used to develop new products and Monitor brands?

Facebook recently overtook the United States as the third most populous country in the world. At 700 Million users, Facebook today is one of the largest networks and continues to grow. At the same time many other social networks have been growing, prominent among them are LinkedIn, Twitter and the recently launched Google +.

These networks are sources where a lot of people exchange ideas, comments and opinions. This is a lip smacking opportunity for most business to listen to what their customers and prospects are saying about them and the competition. But not too much effort has been made in this direction.

If we break it down, Social Media analytics can be used for two three main activities

Brand Monitoring – It is important for most organizations to monitor the social networks and hear what is being said about them. Often consumers vent their frustration on a product or service to a friend or colleague on the network. I know this incident when a major hospitality chain in India had gone back on a commitment one of my connections on Twitter. The connection had tweeted the same to her network on Twitter and within minutes the representatives from the chain called my contact and resolved the issue. Also Social Networks are useful tool for Brand Development to help solve any problems that people raise on the networks.

New Product Development– New Product development can be followed by using collaborative tools like blogs and wiki’s. Many open source tools have been developed by such collaboration. But can this work in the commercial world? The coffee chai Starbucks used Twitter to launch ‘mystarbucksidea’ . The initiative basically invites consumers to send their ideas for new products or services to Starbucks via Twitter. 

Fiat has also launched the first crowd sourced car, when they set up a social network site to open a dialogue between the Fiat owners and designers. The car was launched in Brazil and is called the Fiat Mio. There were 10,000 suggestions from 17,000 people from across 160 countries. 

Corporate announcements and Product Launches– This has become more of a no brainer but many companies actually launch the product on the social network a few hours before the real physical launch. This allows consumers and enthusiasts to get a sneak preview before the rest of the folks do. Currently many electronic firms run campaigns for product launches through Social Media.

So how can one go about all this?

Well the key is to adopt Social Media analytics that can monitor all brand activity on social networks and help decipher what the people are saying or doing. Also it is not enough to just monitor what is being said, companies have to invest in social media action teams that would take action on the reports received by the reports. As bad news travels fast and travels faster on social media, there have to be quick actions. Often it is necessary to have separate social media teams just to concentrate on the monitoring and subsequent actions.

Unless global marketing teams invest in both analytics and a follow through mechanism for social media information, there is little that companies can do. Otherwise a tweet would just be a tweet and nothing more.


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