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Innovate faster. Innovate better. Social media as an innovation engine

By Kate Lee | 03/04/2014 | 10:34 AM

Innovation is a powerful way to drive growth.  However, traditional approaches taken by companies to develop innovative products and services are increasingly being found to be unsuccessful in creating growth.  The traditional siloed approach to R&D is too insular for today’s rapidly changing economic environment.  Moreover a top-down approach to R&D no longer works given our consumer driven marketplace, and the instant gratification consumers now demand.  How then can your company successfully develop new products and services?  How can your company innovate faster? How can your company innovate better?  Harness social media as an innovation engine.

According to a March 2014 report by eBizMBA Facebook has an estimated 900 million unique users each month.  Twitter has an estimated 310 million unique users each month and LinkedIn sees an estimated 250 million users monthly.  Conversations are taking place on these social networks about companies and about specific products and services.  These conversations can provide your company with a wealth of information and can be a source of innovation – innovation that can drive growth.

You can leverage social media an as innovation engine by monitoring the conversations taking place about your company and your products and services.  What are customers saying?  What do customers like?  What do they dislike?  Are there questions that are repeatedly being asked by customers about your company and/or a specific product or service you offer?  Don’t dismiss feedback provided by customers via social media; embrace it and its honesty.  Learn from the feedback provided.  Engage with customers to learn more.  Use the intelligence that you gain from social media to fuel innovation. 

Turn to social media to learn about creative ways customers are using your products. Ikea products are constantly being “hacked” or used in ways that the company had not intended.  Learning “off-label” uses for your products can help you to identify needs within the marketplace, new marketing opportunities for your products, and can generally get your creative juices flowing.

Look at social media to identify trends.  Is there a way that your company can take advantage of specific trends?  Can you introduce a new product or service?  Can you repurpose a product or service to meet the demands of a specific trend?  Even more basic, if you already have a product or service that is trendy, make people aware that you have what they want.  How to do this?  One way is to engage with them on social media.

In addition to monitoring conversations focused on your company, monitor conversations that are taking place about your competitors.  What are customers saying about your competitor and their products and services?  What do customers like about your competitor’s products?  What do they not like?  Are your customers using your competitors products in an off-label way?  All of this information can be used to fuel innovative for your company.

David Burkus, founder of LDRLB and assistant professor of management at Oral Roberts University, wrote that “in most organizations, innovation isn’t hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing the good ideas already there.”  The conversations taking place via social media offer a wealth of good ideas.  Your company can capitalize on the information and intelligence provided, or you can ignore it.  If you choose the former you can turn social media into an innovation engine for your company – one that will help your company grow not in spite of, but because of the current environment and customer demands.

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The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Kate Lee

Kate Lee

Kate Lee is the senior director of research and strategy for Fronetics Strategic Advisors, a Newburyport, Mass.-based consultancy that works with clients in industries including logistics and supply chain. She has over 20 years of domestic and international experience as a writer, researcher, and strategist.


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