When we encounter the word “innovations,” most of us tend to think about technological advancements.
But innovations can also be interpreted as ideas that can result in new marketing approaches or the modifications in existing services or product development.
The best example is the Adobe Community.
When Adobe Muse, a web design software, was in the beta stage, geeks at Adobe listened to the crowd and interacted with them.
As a user of Adobe Creative Suite, I was able to see the reflection of some of those discussions in Adobe’s software updates.
In the online crowd, some criticize, some appreciate and some offer suggestions and newer ideas.
Therefore, social technologies and online communities help businesses, innovators and service providers listen to the online crowd, engage in conversations and seek or track ideas.
People have always been an important factor for a business or a social initiative or a political campaign to be successful.
But now in the age of social media or participatory online media, it matters more. Why? Because of the speed in which words spread through “sharable” technologies, such as social share interfaces across the platforms.
Therefore, knowing the public sentiments that are expressed and shared online about a brand or a political issue or a community service is a must for a business or a nonprofit of any size.
Analysts at Forrester Research would agree that engagement across social media platforms, communities on blogsphere and vendor-managed private online communities are changing the culture of innovations and traditional practices in communication and marketing. Corporations and organizations with big budgets are investing in vendors, such as Communispace, Lithium, Spredfast and Think Passenger, which create customized online communities and recruit brand-specific targets to monitor and track customer insights about a particular brand over a period of time.
For example, by using the private online community services of Communispace four to five years ago, the Disney Co. gathered ideas from parents and movie fans on how to overcome barriers in the adoption of Blu-ray technology.
The Bank of America used the service of Communispace in 2008 to understand the financial management by high school and new college students before developing an appropriate campaign for this target group.
Such consumer insights are largely spontaneous and honest data because brand users can talk freely in an informal, participatory setting of social media and online communities.
The organizations still need to use popular research methods — focus group and surveys — in addition to online behavior-based consumer insights to develop a comprehensive picture about their consumers/publics.
An organization with a small budget can be strategic in designating its staff to monitor different social media sites, where its crowd gathers.
An analyst can create an online community with a hashtag and then monitor and interpret the talks and activities associated with a hashtag.
Who knew that trending of message feeds would redefine the concept of community if the purpose is all about sharing ideas, opinions and information about a certain topic or a brand?
Masudul Biswas, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of communication/journalism at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.