How To Use Social Media Monitoring Tools To Aid Product Development

To many, the process of developing a successful product can be a mystery. Sometimes companies will spend months of development time to create a product that doesn’t reflect the needs or the scope of its intended market. And other times, successful products are developed completely on accident. Because of this, it can often seem impossible to develop successful products. However, if one takes the time to listen to their marketplace and plan the development process accordingly, they are more likely to succeed.

In this post, I would like to discuss how to use social media monitoring tools to aid in product development and market research.

There are many steps to developing a successful product. But the first step is always concept creation. Here we are thinking about broad-based ideas. Using social media monitoring at this step can help form a direction and scope for the rest of the development process. For example, if we want to develop a product focused on online video, we might monitor such terms as “video”, “video sharing”, or “video rating”. During this first stage of monitoring, we will want to focus on what aspects of online video people are talking about most.

How To Use Social Media Monitoring Tools To Aid Product Development

How To Use Social Media Monitoring Tools To Aid Product Development

Sniffing user needs out of social media

Identifying trends and audiences is extremely important to defining the scope and direction of your product. With our example, we might find that the largest demographic for video consumption are young adults and predominately focus on music and entertainment.

After we have used our monitoring tools to identify trends and audiences, we now begin to monitor scope and direction. Understanding how your target audience is using products is important in your planning process. With our example above, we might monitor conversations to determine where and when video content is being viewed the most. Questions such as “are the users using handheld devices or traditional desktop machines?” can be helpful when determining the scope and direction of your product.

While observing how the market uses similar products, you can begin to make a potential features list. For example, you might observe some users prefer video playlist and some prefer video sharing. Making a features list based on actual user conversations/engagement can be extremely powerful when deciding how to delegate resources during the development process.

Prepare your competitive position

After you’ve completed your features list, research other companies and products that meet the needs of your target audience. Use this list of companies and products to begin brand monitoring to aid in competitive analysis. Here, we will be looking at users reactions and sentiment towards competitors in your marketplace. Pay attention to any gaps between your target’s dialog and what your competitors are offering understanding these gaps can help develop a strong point of difference with your product.

At this point, you should now have a direction, feature list, and definitive point of difference that is all reflective of your marketplace. Now its time to send your ideas off to the engineers! But wait, don’t stop monitoring social media! After you have launched your new product, you are going to want to continue to monitor social media to identify flaws and improve with extended feature sets that are now more apparent after you have launched.

Understanding your marketplace and target audiences are important to product development. Whether it is concept creation or refining your feature list social media monitoring can help with the necessary research in building the perfect product.


Customer experience and sentiment analysis

The notion that listening to your customer’s voice is important is firmly established. Companies have depended for a long time on data from customer surveys, call center transcripts and focus groups. This data was captured in a structured format and visualized via charts or processed with the help of business intelligence applications, to help identify how to improve customer service, develop or improve products and pinpoint competitor vulnerabilities.

Companies face a very real need not just to acknowledge the impact of unstructured social media on brand and product perception, but to understand and filter it sensibly, and to integrate it with structured customer data and get it into the hands of the right people to make it actionable.

Companies face a very real need not just to acknowledge the impact of unstructured social media on brand and product perception, but to understand and filter it sensibly, and to integrate it with structured customer data and get it into the hands of the right people to make it actionable.

But the veritable volume of the customer voices in the Web 2.0 age more often than not leaves companies struggling to keep up. Now people have a voice and a tendency to express their opinions with blunt honesty via blogs, tweets, e-mails and forums about products and services that they find gratifying or disappointing. And those opinions hold weight. A 2007 study by Jupiter Research (now Forrester), called “Social Networking Sites: Defining Advertising Opportunities in a Competitive Landscape,” found that 30% of frequent social networkers trust their peers’ opinions when making a major purchase decision, compared to the 10 percent who trust advertisements.

As Andreas Wiegend, former chief scientist of, predicted in a blog post for the Monitor Talent Group, “In 2009, more data will be generated by individuals than in the entire history of mankind through 2008.” Companies face a very real need not just to acknowledge the impact of unstructured social media on brand and product perception, but to understand and filter it sensibly, and to integrate it with structured customer data and get it into the hands of the right people to make it actionable.

For many companies, the burgeoning text analytics approach of sentiment analysis is becoming a critical component of their overall strategy, giving them a much-needed assist to stay responsive to customers, market opportunities and trends.

What is it?

In his white paper “Text Analytics 2009,” Seth Grimes, analytics strategist at Alta Plana, describes text analytics as “the software and the transformational steps that discover business value in ‘unstructured’ text.”

There’s special business value in discerning opinion, sentiment and subjectivity—the “voice of the customer”—in text as varied as blogs, forum postings, articles, e-mail and survey responses. That field of “customer experience analysis” applies sentiment analysis and other techniques to understand and help predict consumer behavior via text analysis coupled with analysis of customer transactions, profiles and demographics.

Vendors generally use a combination of statistical analysis of word frequency andco-occurrences with linguistics (involving lexicons, dictionaries and language rules) in an algorithmic approach to understanding exactly what the consumer is saying. Grimes says, “The narrower you can frame the problem and the data you collect, the better, because you can then adjust your approach to match specific business requirements and information sources.”

The technological challenges are not for the faint-hearted or the linguistically timid. Suresh Vittal, analyst at Forrester, says, “For a long time, text analytics was a technology in search of a business need. Now, thanks to social media, the need is there; the question is whether the technology can ramp up fast enough to be commercial.” Early adoption by government agencies, which sought to apply text mining to mountains of classified documents, is giving way to more mainstream commercial demand from industries for whom customer perception is critical: hospitality, consumer brands and high-tech, among them.

Classifying the messy middle

Ours is a world in which online consumer reviews of hotels that might include the phrase “the lobby is baaaaad!” meant in a positive way, or a review of a holiday toy saying, “I would give this to all the children in my life, if I were Scrooge,” meant to disparage. Throw in slang, language evolution and socio-cultural gradations in word use, and you have a mammoth challenge for accurate computational treatment of opinion.

Levy says accuracy remains a challenge in the industry. “The sentiment side is good at the two poles, positive and negative. But the neutrals are difficult. If you give four people in a room 100 neutral opinions and ask them to classify, even they will only agree 55 to 60 percent of the time.”

The level of granularity can also be important. If sentiment is assigned at a document level—that is, each tweet or blog post is assigned a positive, neutral or negative sentiment—how does the hypothetical tweet “I love Marriott’s bathrooms but the beds are lumpy” get classified? A chief executive officer cautions, “Ratings need to be assigned on a subject level at a minimum; a solution that assigns them at a document level is going to miss something.”

Whose opinion is it?

Even if a sentiment analysis tool were always accurate, the opinions don’t necessarily carry equal weight.  Dell has an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 online conversations about its brand each day, which span the spectrum of positive to negative; the company needs to understand whose opinion actually has the power to move brand perception, and keep close tabs on those. Sentiment analysis needs to be connected to social metrics and influence analysis to make sense.

Levy agrees, saying companies understand that listening to social media is important but now need help in filtering. “There is no longer the notion that trusted information only comes from The New York Times,” he says. “Once you get a handle on who is influencing your brand, that becomes actionable.” Influence analysis, analyzing digital breadcrumbs to see which individuals have the highest credibility and widest reach, should be a part of the overall text analytics strategy. By knowing in advance who the influencers are for your brand, you’ll be better prepared to manage crisis and opportunity effectively, reaching out to 20 key contacts instead of 10,000 questionable ones.

Taking sentiment out of the silo

There’s widespread agreement among vendors and analysts that text analysis is only as valuable as the actions it prompts. In a Forrester report from February 2009, called “Obstacles To Customer Experience Success,” a survey of 90 customer experience decision-makers from large North American firms found that 89 percent said that customer experience would be either very important or critical to their 2009 efforts, but a lack of cooperation across organizations remains a major obstacle.

When it comes to sentiment analysis, different functions are listening for different answers. A customer service manager needs insight into customer experience, a product manager wants to hear complaints or praise for features as well as product design ideas, and brand managers may be looking for competitive intelligence.

For customers of online monitoring solutions, acting on the feed of information is the hardest part of the equation. You must have an environment where people are culturally attuned to action.

The challenge to the enterprise is to combine analysis of what is being said, by whom, with more structured customer intelligence data  in order to develop a robust customer engagement strategy. Forrester’s Vittal says that to break sentiment analysis out of the silo, “The platforms must be open and integratable. Customer intelligence data is still siloed, and there is a complexity gap that must be overcome.”

Companies should combine unstructured data from opinions about their brands and products, posted on social media and other traditional online sites, with public opinion as measured through structured survey research, to paint a richer picture of consumers’ emotions and decision factors.

Getting started

For companies that are just getting started with sentiment analysis, the first step is to listen to what’s being said, analyze the information and identify possible root causes behind it—a company can truly begin to capitalize on the promise of text analytics- and use it as input to their marketing strategy.

Women Seek Online Communities To Validate Purchases

If a new study is to be believed, you should be building direct relationships through search, online and mobile Web sites with women who show interest. It will become one of the most valuable marketing tools a company can have.

The joint study from iVillage and SheSpeaks highlights that interaction between women through online community Web sites, forums and message boards have a “dramatic” influence on driving product preference, loyalty, and purchase.

Facebook and Twitter fall to the bottom of the list. Only 19% believe that posts from friends influence them to make a purchase, and 11% cite posts from brands.

Facebook and Twitter fall to the bottom of the list. Only 19% believe that posts from friends influence them to make a purchase, and 11% cite posts from brands.

Online coupons and customer reviews continue to influence purchases. Women are 77% more likely to look for products and 67% more likely to purchase them in a store after reading online reviews on a community forum or message board.

Women Seek Online Communities To Validate Purchases

The study reveals that while social media networks like Facebook and Twitter are valuable communications channels, with 51% of women actively following brands and retailers online, these channels are relatively less — 19% — influential in prompting purchases. Other forms of marketing that prove influential include online coupons at 68%; online product reviews by consumers, 61%; emails from companies or brands, 45%; and articles read online, 41%.

About half of the women responding to the survey spend between six and 30 minutes preparing for a shopping trip, and two-thirds spend between six and 60 minutes. They search for product information online and offline, looking for coupons in multiple channels, and reading email newsletters. Although the research channels used most vary by product category like food and beverage versus health and beauty, it is clear that brand marketers need to understand the most influential digital channels for their specific product.

“Women want advice from other shoppers, but they also want to share their experiences and look for validation before making a purchase,” says Jodi Kahn, executive vice president at iVillage. “They become much more loyal to a brand if you give themthe tools to make the correct buying decision. Coupons and programs increase brand loyalty.”

A parenting Web site, along with a beauty Web site — both from, scheduled to launch Thursday — will make it easier for women to search for information and product reviews.

Women typically control the purchasing decisions in the home, Kahn says. Knowing the brands that communicate with women can have a greater impact on a variety of purchase behaviors. Seventy-four percent of the women who participated in the survey said recommendations gave them a more favorable view of the product while shopping, and 70% said they were more likely to choose the brand or product over others.

Online channels influence women differently. Coupons and opinions influence women most when it comes to the purchase of food and beverage, health and beauty and household products. Online coupons at 68%, store coupons at 66%, consumer reviews on shopping sites at 61%, and online recommendations from friends at 59% are the top influencers. Sixty percent also say online coupons are more influential on their purchases now than one year ago, and 51% say consumer recommendations on Web sites are more influential.

Although 51% of women are fans or followers of grocery, health and beauty or household products brands and the stores that carry them, consumer reviews on shopping sites are a top influence for 61% of respondents. Online articles, by comparison, are a top influence with 35% of respondents saying that reading online content or articles is more influential now than one year ago. Blogs were also identified as an influence by 33% of respondents.

Facebook and Twitter fall to the bottom of the list. Only 19% believe that posts from friends influence them to make a purchase, and 11% cite posts from brands.

Source: MediaPost News

Five Foundations For Online Marketing From Coca-Cola

It seems that Coca-Cola focuses on the fundamentals when it comes down to online marketing.

They use five key foundations for the online marketing efforts. Add value. Be transparent. Be consistent and follow through. Be receptive to change. Surprise and delight your customers.

These are some premises many talk about but not often delivered.

  1. Add value. Bring value into every interaction.
  2. Be transparent. Listen to what your brand owners are saying. You are not your brand owner. You are the steward of your brand.
  3. Be consistent and follow through. Stay on brand strategy and stay true to who you are. Make human connections, which we all share, better and more meaningful.
  4. Be receptive to change. Mix things up to keep it fresh.
  5. Surprise and delight your customers. Again, keep things interesting and fresh.

Online Marketing from Coca-Cola: Campaigns result

For the world and this one was for Friendship Day in Latin America, they created “La Máquina de la Felicidad” or “The Happiness Vending Machine” and the success was outstanding. See for yourselves.

This one took place in the U.S. and with a different twist and an amazing ending. Wouldn’t you share online what is taking place? 🙂