The rise of social media provides significant opportunities for innovation. Would-be innovators are able to gather input and feedback about ideas by simply monitoring Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, various blogs and online communities.
Literally thousands of sentiments and reviews are available for the innovator to mine, learn from and leverage. Need to understand how people feel about your company, new product or that of a competitor? Need to uncover a problem in need of a solution? Spend just a little time online and have an advantage previously reserved for those with much more time and money.
However, as social media’s popularity and diversity of outlets have grown, many found that monitoring social media was like trying to listen to a football stadium full of individual conversations.
Social media’s strength in numbers initially turned out to be its weakness. However, the problem is slowly being resolved. “Listening tools” have been created to aggregate comments in order to bring efficiency and organization to social media’s stream of consciousness. Tools such as Google’s Alert, Tweetdeck and Cymfony are making it more possible to make sense of the cacophony and garner insight. Likewise, headway is being made in the field of “sentiment research” which strives to derive deeper meaning to the short blasts of tweets and posts.
Like all bright and shiny new things, monitoring social media is not the flawless panacea it may have first appeared to be. Take for example the Netflix announcement of a price increase in July of this year. Early monitoring of the social media’s conversation about the price hike was initially viewed as innocuous. There was a spike in negativity, but that was to be expected. However, what Netflix came to understand — in a matter of hours — was that they were missing an understanding of the depth of negative feeling.
Netflix missed the level of passion and outrage via superficial monitoring of social media. Apparently, the potency of venom can be difficult to access in 140 characters or less.
As a result, Netflix proceeded with their plan in what became a comedy of errors and a crucifixion in the court of social media.
Post-analysis of the debacle has shown that social media is just one tool to use for understanding needs, wants and opinions. It is not the universal tool it may have been heralded to be.
Instead, the current school of thought is that social media is giving rise to the need for more proprietary research.
Weaving in “old fashioned” focus groups and other long-standing qualitative research techniques, innovators are learning to dig into potential sentiment before it has time to become an avalanche of negative feedback in social media.
It seems that knowing if your idea is a good one before you put it on the market makes even more sense in a world where opinions can ruin you by lunchtime. Additionally, innovators are finding that mining social media can give clues for potential ideas, but thoroughly examining a need still requires market research techniques which have been around for decades.
There appears to still be a need to garner empathy and judge levels of need in a personal, private and in-person session with a skilled researcher and potential buyers.