Innovation… a word which can mean so much, yet can also be an empty perception of the way we do business. Organisations are often perceived to be “innovative” when effectively leveraging new technologies, the Internet or social media to drive their business forward in new ways. In this article, I take a closer look at what social media for businesses is missing, in order to be truly innovational for organisations.
When businesses use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, there are two types of use cases: the top-down and the bottom-up. The top-down is pushed content from business to consumer, whereas the bottom-up is consumer generated content.
With the rise of content marketing, businesses are finding innovative ways to market products and services via social media in ways that intellectually engage consumers, such as Red Bull and its content marketing initiatives. In this article, however, we will focus on the bottom-up view.
In the case of the bottom-up approach (from consumers to business), organisations and social media platforms are not being innovative enough. In actual fact, they are being counter-innovative in many cases. Large organisations are channelling their consumers onto their Facebook and Twitter pages in attempts to be “innovative” and engage with their stories there, but the sad truth is that these businesses are simply redirecting their customer service initiatives onto these platforms which were not built to handle mass consumer voices. So what needs to be improved?
Here are five key reasons why large organisations today are not being truly innovative on social media platforms:
1. Are businesses making key decisions based on input from consumers?
No. In order to make informed decisions based on the market, you need confidence that the data is being turned into real information and is ready for decision making. What are people saying about our new product? What improvements would people make in our product? What new ideas do people have for our services? These are basic insights which consumers have the answers to. On Facebook, if one consumer posts a great idea and the next consumer posts a lame meme, they both carry the same weight. The great idea, unfortunately, gets lost in time.
1. Are consumers’ opinions distributed to all respective areas in the business, to make better decisions based on the market?
No. Facebook and Twitter don’t make it easy for businesses to package up consumers’ voices and push it off into other areas of the organisation, such as sales or supply chain. Today, most consumer opinions stay in the marketing team, who handle the social media accounts.
3. Do businesses have extensive and up-to-date consumer analytics to help make better decisions?
No. Those of you who have managed Facebook and Twitter accounts will know how limiting the analytics can be. On Facebook, for example, it’s all about numbers. Numbers of likes received per post, numbers of reach per post, etc. What about something as basic as exporting consumer wall posts according to the most liked? Of course, this brings into question the concerns about privacy, which is another topic, but the reality is that consumers are trying to improve the business but their voices never make it to the decision makers in the business.
4. Are businesses engaging with and understanding their thought leaders/lead users?
Thought leaders are people who understand industries and the businesses in those industries extremely well, if only a few businesses. Lead users are end users who regularly consume a business’ products and services. Facebook and Twitter offer no insights into the thought leaders of a business, making it more difficult for these thought leaders to closely engage with the company, for example in the real world with conference calls or on-site workshops.
5. Are businesses offering those consumers who have valuable insights any tangible rewards?
Engaging consumers deserve something in return for their opinions and ideas. Facebook and Twitter offer no channel to reward opinionated individuals.
Until today, the answer to these questions above is “no.”
I believe it is only when some of the answers to these questions become “yes” that can we honestly say that companies are being “innovative” with their consumers via social media.
So whose fault is this?
It is no single party’s fault, but rather the change in the way consumers and businesses are interacting with each other. Consumers today want to engage with any business in their own way, and currently that includes social media, smartphones and transparency. A perfect example of a business leading the way in better connecting with their consumers online is KLM. The Dutch airline responds on Twitter within 15 minutes and solves any issues within nine hours. Check out KLM’s requests on Twitter for examples.
Businesses engaging with consumers from the bottom-up, such as KLM and UPS, are still in the early phases of true “consumer innovation” and need platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to provide tools which better enable them to be truly innovative with their consumers: tap into great ideas, tap into thought leaders, and make decisions based on the market which put them ahead of competition.
To wrap up this article, I would like to leave you with a short and crisp vision for the future of social media interaction between consumers and businesses: More and more businesses will realise that their customers are becoming more engaging, if only in a quick and transparent manner, and do actually hold valuable insights into the business’ products & services. By listening closer to the voices of an industry’s thought leaders, businesses can make better decisions both on a strategic and operational level, based on facts form the market which will no doubt lead to a stronger competitive advantage.
Josh Meadon is co-founder and co-CEO of Croking, a platform aimed at making it easier for consumers to voice their opinions and ideas about any business. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org