It’s not without good reason that social media has a largely negative presence in the minds of many business leaders today. It’s hostile, a mine field for brands, toxic and filled with trolls. To some degree yes. Misinformation is rampant and it’s lead to some marketing and reputation nightmares. Equally, there are incredibly valuable ideas also available in social media.
We know because we’ve done many research projects using social media data over the past decade. We’ve found insights that have helped product designers get to market with more powerful messages. Tourism operators develop more targeted campaigns and more.
So what about leveraging social media insights for ideas on how or where you might innovate in today’s increasingly complex world where outcomes are uncertain and risks high? If a recession comes or some form of downturn, now is the time to innovate. Those that do, will lead. Social media can be a well of insight.
The trick is to be able to cut through the volumes of crap. Tricks we’ve learnt from a decade of doing this kind of research, known as netnography (a term invented by Canadian anthropologist Dr. Robert Kozinets.) There are lots of great, juicy, ideas and insights scattered across many channels. In blogs, discussion threads and channels like Twitter and Mastodon.
You have to tease them out. Find the nuggets. The good debates, arguments and passionate discussions. They are there. A lot more in fact, than you might think.
The Insights for Innovation from Social Media
- Discover what kinds of knowledge potential customers are looking for. This can inform a content marketing strategy and calendar.
- Competitive Advantages: What consumers are saying about your competitor can give insights into how you can innovate customer service, add a feature to a product or build out a service offering with high customer value but low cost to implement on your end. And more.
- New Products: As with the insights around competitors, uncovering what consumers, analysts, forecasters and futurists are putting out in social media may provide an idea on which to start innovating within your offerings.
- Gain Market Perspective: Businesses tend to get caught up in the daily minutae and today, with supply chain issues, employee attraction and retention and economic tensions, it can be more so. Gaining insights from social media can provide perspective, help you avoid too much navel gazing and spark ideas.
- Consumer Intent: So many signals can be captured from social media channels. Including what consumers are intending to do. Many discuss buying plans, how they’re managing budgets and more. Again, insights fro innovation.
With so much volatility and uncertainty today, businesses need to be more agile and they need to be looking at market indicators that include social media and other digital channels. Not just lagging data that’s a quarter or more old. While that’s helpful, it should be mixed in with other sources of external information.