Customers now have a public stage in social media where they can be heard, and it’s no longer just the companies that do all the loud talking. Customers can now voice their opinions with ease, with sentiments coming from various kinds of brands and companies they frequent. Opinions through social media can let other people know what they think about their favorite television shows, retailers, service providers, and more.
As such, social media is a great source of customer feedback data. A huge amount of the opinions found in social media platforms are public and easy to get to for evaluation and analysis. In this manner, some people might think that social media can replace traditional focus groups, or qualitative researches in which a group of people are asked about their attitudes, beliefs, opinions and perceptions towards a product.
Social Media use among Brands
To be more effective at mining social media for relevant information, brands should avoid just looking at customer complaints or commendations. Rather, brands should mine whole user exchanges for trends. Some conversations even contain messages that, although aren’t directly talking about your brand, are definitely going to help you recognize what their needs and wants are.
One example is when Walmart decided whether or not to stock making cake pop kits in its stores. Instead of conducting a sequence of focus groups, research and trend analysis, a Twitter listening campaign was made to come up with their decision. What Walmart found out was that customers were really excited about this product, and as such, it decided to carry kits for making cake pops.
In the previous example, the enthusiasm found in Twitter was converted to brick and mortar sales. Indeed, a lot can be learned just by listening to current social activity. However, brands can also directly get feedback from customers by engaging them through social media.
Direct engagement with customers allows brands to know how their products can be more attractive to customers at the individual level. For example, Frito-Lay created a Facebook app called “I’d Eat That.” With this app, customers can make their own Frito-Lay flavors and also support the flavors they like by voting for them.
This technique of using Facebook to empower customers and including them in the product development scheme gave Frito-Lay a large number of new ideas for flavors. Furthermore, the Facebook app allowed the company to identify which flavors are popular in which regions in the world. In Serbia, for example, pickled cucumber is a very popular flavor, while hot and spicy crab is a success in Thailand.
Brands, Social Media and Being Customer-Centric
According to Steve Jobs, product designing through focus groups is really difficult. Most of the time, people are essentially unaware of what they really want until it is shown to them. As such, Apple looked ahead of the present, making products that the company knows consumers will want.
This shows that you don’t always have to be of the same opinion as your customers, and meet each of their demands. In fact, a research conducted by Hildebrand, et al, shows that “receiving feedback from other community members on initial self-designs leads to less unique final self-designs, lower satisfaction with self-designed products, lower product usage frequency and lower monetary product valuations.”
On the other hand, companies should definitely still use feedback and research to make product improvements. For instance, social media dialogs can contain trends that helps brands assess what they need to do to improve their products or identify what the products’ fortes are. Moreover, while Apple showed that they can show customers what they need through innovative products, customer ideas are still very important, especially when pooled together with brand proficiency.
Customer Engagement through Social Media
Customer loyalty towards brands can increase when brands listen through social media. In fact, according to a study by Barry et al, “customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20% to 40% more money with those companies than other customers. They also demonstrate a deeper emotional commitment to the companies.”
Asking feedback from customers should be done by brands in an effective manner; that is, brands should understand that customers value time and may be unwilling to donate it to “corporate crowdsourcing.” On the other hand, creative apps such as those on Facebook may help produce customer responses. Customers are more willing to give their time if they know they will get something valuable in exchange.
Getting feedback through social media channels usually means receiving public feedback. Companies should be ready to accept and answer customer reactions publicly. For example, if a customer is very unhappy and decides to send out social feedback, one should know what to do to resolve the matter.
However, even complaints can be turned into helpful feedback. Indeed, social media is a great listening tool where brands can collectively obtain feedback from customers. The sample is larger than conventional focus groups and the costs considerably cheaper. Companies that use social feedback will definitely have a major lead over companies that don’t listen to their customers at all.