How To Use Social Media To Drive Product Innovation

The process of product innovation has, for some time, relied upon a cadre of forward-thinkers within an organisation, and/or soliciting input from customer surveys and focus groups.

These methods often prove eventually fruitful, but they can come with extended timeframes, costs revolving around in-house staff and running focus groups.

And even with a commitment to innovate, companies may find that the research they do might still not accurately reflect the needs and pain points of their targeted customer base.

With the advent of social media, businesses “are connecting with their customers and seeking their input earlier than ever in the product development cycle,” notes Deloitte. Tapping into this resource means “consumer feedback is available during the idea generation and design stages, rather than during product testing.”

It’s an important distinction, both in terms of product development and in gathering unfiltered—and potentially valuable—customer data. Here are tips on how you can tailor your social media efforts to aid in product innovation:

Prepare to make an investment

Getting involved with social media often requires some level of investment, in terms of employing staff to monitor key platforms and, when necessary, creating a new platform with which to solicit customer input. It’s helpful to anticipate these expenditures and incorporate them into your research and development budget.

Start with passive listening

Unless you already have a vibrant social media presence, it’s a good idea to embark on a passive social listening campaign—that is, gaining an understanding of what’s out there on social media. Learn which specific industry-related platforms are best to follow. Pay close attention to what people are saying on the “big” platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Find out what your competitors are doing on social media, as well.

After that, you can move onto active engagement, as long as you’re “prepared to hear the bad and as well as the good” about your products from people on social media, Deloitte notes.

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Stay on top of growing trends

What’s trending on social media is often a key indicator of consumer activity and preferences. If your business is sufficiently agile, you can get involved in trending conversations on Twitter and elsewhere, with the potential for acquiring rich insights into where your own R&D efforts may go.

In order to gain awareness of growing trends, Sprout Social suggests checking out the “explore tab on platforms like Twitter and YouTube or [using] a tool like Google Trends to see what topics are gaining traction.” Look for “keywords and terms most commonly used by your target audience and discover related topics frequently mentioned” with those keywords.

Host focus groups and conduct surveys via social media.

In contrast to in-person focus groups and email customer surveys, soliciting feedback via social media offers more immediacy and potentially more accurate results. Many social media networks offer the opportunity to enlist specialised customer groups for product innovation feedback, such as Google+ circles of Facebook Live Q&A sessions.

These and similar strategies are “fantastic ways to get people actively involved in the success of your brand—while simultaneously soliciting quick feedback that helps you advance your business objectives,” notes HubSpot.

Also look at conducting “quick polls” from those within the community that regularly follow your business on social media. Ask 1-2 questions and make it easy for respondents to share their thoughts. You might uncover valuable new ideas that boost your innovation efforts.

Monitor what people say about your competitors

Sometimes, competitors unveil new product features or benefits that may give them an edge in the marketplace. With social media, you can monitor customer responses to these innovations and gain insights into how best to proceed with your own R&D efforts.

“Features that regularly see high complaint levels or show repeated frustration can be avoided,” notes Brandwatch. On the other hand, “popular features that regularly [elicit] praise can be researched further and ultimately emulated.”

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