Social Networking Grows as a Product Development Tool

Social media has become a bigger issue for a growing number of companies for several reasons. It represents a shift of where audiences are, so outbound messaging has to move that way as well. 

But that's the lesser factor. Social media means consumers are able to easily voice their thoughts about products and services. And most observers would agree that angry and unhappy consumers are more likely to complain than happy users are to praise. 
 
As much as retailers hate "bad press," they now also must contend with "negative buzz" from unhappy customers and users. All of that implies brands have to become more "proactive" about their reputations online. 

Still, even that is superficial in some sense. One thing product development teams have learned over the years is that bulletin boards, online comments and now blog posts and tweets can be sources of information useful for product design, upgrades and repairs. 

At a fundamental level, companies can launch products that have some element of unresolved "beta" elements and then modify products as feedback appears. 

“Naturally occurring conversations will be utilized in product innovation and design, and companies will create incentives for people's attention and engagement while repurposing and analyzing content and engagement in new ways that will deliver valuable input," says Ravit Lichtenberg, founder and chief strategist, Ustrategy.com. 

“The voice of the consumer is only going to get louder and stronger,” said Ms. Williamson. “It will shape what social media is and what it will become. Not too long ago, a company might have made major changes to its products or services based on a few focus groups, some financial planning and a degree of gut instinct," says Debra Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst. "Social media has already changed all that." 

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