What if I told you that you can cut your R+D budget to a fraction of what you’re spending now?
Now I’ve got your attention. How?
Social media, of course.
R+D is an essential part of any company’s product strategy, and the data and resources available to social media marketers make the process easier than it’s ever been before. Let’s take a look at how you can happily marry R+D and social media in your own org.
The Traditional Way
Businesses spend millions and millions of dollars each quarter to find ways to stay the leading innovators of their industry. Many established consumer goods companies devote large sums of money to improving old products and developing new ones. R+D is not only for high-tech companies. For example, Gillette spends quite a bit on R+D each year to stay ahead of the curve in the personal products industry and continue to hold the number one shaver on the market.
Build Your Community
Before you can really dive into research and development using social media, you must have a well-developed community. It’s hard to get responses from people if you were never socially active on social media to begin with.
The first step is to build your community by engaging daily with potential customers and influencers via Twitter, Facebook and Google +. If you need a helping hand in this area, check out these tips for using Facebook for business and gaining quality Twitter followers.
Okay, so now that you’ve built your community we can begin leveraging social media to fuel your research and development.
People Like To Be a Part Of a Big Thing
Imagine the fan advocacy your brand would generate if you assigned someone from your marketing or R+D team to be the R+D spokesperson for your company’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Step 1: R+D spokesperson asks followers for feedback on improving a specific product or product line.
Step 2: Listen carefully.
Step 3: Acknowledge all responses (or as many as possible).
Step 4: Use the public data available on your social audience to capture the overarching themes and sentiment in the responses.
Step 5: Keep your Facebook and Twitter audiences in the loop as you develop the product.
Step 6: Measure your engagement growth and monitor audience response through each step.
This will allow you to gauge the interest and responses to your new product decisions.
Do you realize the potential you have to create diehard brand evangelists this way?
Put yourself in a customer’s shoes. Just imagine for one second that a company, large or small, asked you and all its other Twitter followers what they can do to speed up delivery time.
What if you submitted your idea and, a few weeks later, you got a response from someone in that company? “Thank you for your suggestion. We’ve taken your idea into consideration and will begin developing it effective immediately. We’ll keep you posted!”
I mean, that would be awesome, wouldn’t it? You would feel extremely special and tell your friends. You would instantly become an evangelist of their product.
People love to be a part of something big, feel they accomplished something, and feel LISTENED to. For brands, social media shouldn’t be all broadcasting – it should include a healthy dose of listening, too. And after listening, responding.
A perfect example of a huge company that uses social media for R+D and listens to customer suggestions is Lays, the potato chip brand. For the past couple of years, they’ve been setting up a campaign on their website and Facebook that allows consumers to design their own flavor potato chip. The winner out of thousands of submissions gets $1,000,000.
This might sound like a lot of money, but it most likely pales in comparison to the amount of money that would’ve been spent on traditional R+D and market research just to see what flavors people “might” like.
Lays figures out which flavor to go with by using a voting system. The public votes for its favorite chip and the runners-up are voted on by Lays themselves, then a winner is announced. It’s a pretty long process, but it is a genius way to save money on R+D and to build fan advocacy – killing two birds with one stone.
Ways you can use social media for your research and development
- Post questions on Twitter asking how you can improve a product or service.
- Set up a contest that takes users submissions.
- Have fans send in video submissions via Instagram or Vine saying what they do or don’t like about a specific product or service.
- Set up a voting system on Facebook. Facebook did away with polls, which was an awesome way to get R+D questions answered, so now it’s time to get creative.
- Utilize Snapchat to have fans send in pictures with new product ideas.
Listen and engage.
So how about you? What are the most creative ways you’ve seen brands using social media to fuel research and development? Shout it out in the comments below!