Can you use Social Media to create better products and services?

The floor of the New York Stock Exchange.Yes, I know many of us have discussed concepts like value co-creation for some time. However, as the business value of social networks is explored by an ever-growing audience I find myself revisiting, and rethinking, many concepts.

An old co-worker of mine asked me about running beta programs on social networks and I wanted to share my current thinking on the subject. For the purpose of this post, the offerings fall into these groupings:

  • Free offerings like Facebook fan pages and LinkedIn groups.
  • Semi-free offerings focused purely on the ideation process. Great examples include BubbleIdeas, UserVoice, IdeaScale. For example, see the CityCamp Boston BubbleIdeas platform that we are using to generate session ideas with our event attendees. (yes, I sell BubbleIdeas).
  • More expensive, and more feature rich, solutions like those from Lithium, Jive, INgage Networks, Right Now, Parature, and on and on. These offer functionality beyond just ideation.

Keep in mind:

  • Your Facebook and LinkedIn personal accounts do not qualify as an established community. You need to have an engaged, at least somewhat engaged, community focused on your products and company, not you individually.
  • While there are many early leaders across the public and private sector most businesses do not have an engaged customer community established. Even those that have taken the time to set up Facebook pages and LinkedIn groups are often following cookie-cutter guidance and not building real community, you have a ghost town…
  • Those that have invested in more robust community solutions are generally better organized to manage these efforts.
  • If your primary goal is to run beta programs, to co-develop products with your customers, and you do not have one of the more expensive solutions already in house, I would recommend either:
    • Giving me a call to discuss setting up BubbleIdeas (free for 3 months then pricing varies by use from near free on up). With BubbleIdeas you can fully customize the experience which is useful for those that want the experience to match their other web experiences.
    • If you already have a Facebook page or LinkedIn group consider adding another Facebook page or LinkedIn subgroup for your Product Advisors (the beta team of employees and customers). This is fast to set up but you have less control over the look and feel, a trade-off you need to consider.

If you truly want to run a beta program you need to understand that social communities are always on, the days of starting and stopping beta programs will become a thing of the past. Keep the energy going with this community.

  • Provide them insights on your product plans and encourage feedback
  • Provide them with tips and bonuses for being “part of the team”.
  • Listen and respond.


Originally posted on John’s blog, The Lab Is Open.

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