It’s not surprising that social media is entrenching itself deep into our culture. Twitter is a main channel for political communication, dogs have Instagram accounts and people get paid by consumer companies based on the number of likes they receive doing yoga in front of a world wonder. With social media’s growing role in influencing our perceptions of the world, our needs and purchasing patterns, consumer companies have been quick to pick up on the value this digital world provides by integrating social listening into their consumer listening initiatives. A smart move. However, there is a caveat. As fast as something can become viral in the social media world, it can become irrelevant. This poses a risk to companies that may overly rely on this type of information to influence their strategic decisions and product development efforts at the expense of resources and reputation.
Remember Pokemon Go? At its peak, Pokemon GO generated 45 million active daily users, prompting an augmented reality (AR) investment race that resulted in 40 smaller AR companies receiving early stage rounds of funding. Yet the virality faded, investments were lost, and today, while Pokemon Go is still valuable with 5 million active daily users, it is known more as “Pokemon Gone.” Now, it’s easy to get distracted by a viral craze of opinions. Everything happening must be right. It’s the hot hand fallacy – the idea that whatever is happening now will continuing happening into the future, so it becomes harder to see how anything could go wrong or get better. Whether you are distracted by 1,000 likes of admiration, or 1,000 comments of critique, the response is usually immediate, rushed, and risk averse, with hopes of perpetuating the positive into the future, or correcting the negative in the now. This is a recipe for limited quality improvement and innovation.
Now, imagine if social media was around in the early 20thcentury. Media channels would have been inundated with tweets and hash tags tied to photos of old, slow horses and streets riddled with manure. Maybe that inundation of opinion would have stifled Henry Ford’s innovation as he rushed to react to the negative voices of his modern-day consumer and respond with quelling solution as quick as possible. Maybe instead of the car, we would have had a better street cleaner or stronger horse supplements. But Henry Ford had it easy. Social media wasn’t around and opinions were slow.
Cutting Through the Noise To Dig Deeper
Today, consumer companies have to do more than just listen. They have to cut through the noise, which can be amplified by retweets and likes. They have to dive deeper and sort through the virality of issues to get to the heart of not what all these voices want, but what they need. Additionally, they need to strive to continuously push the envelope and not rest on their laurels or rush to address their temporary failures. This can only be done by balancing these valuable, yet risky, social insights with industry stakeholder expertise. These stakeholders can then leverage these insights, with specialized knowledge, upstream possibilities and downstream opportunities, to truly innovate and give the consumer something they didn’t even know was possible because they were too distracted by the ever-growing tyranny of the urgent caused by frantic tweets, and blind likes.
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