Social networks and on-line communities have become major sources of feedback because their members tend to accept what fellow network members endorse. And the impact of social media continues to grow at staggering rates. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram and other social networks are now a central part of millions of people’s lives, especially the Millennials and post-Millennials (Group Z). As they take on larger and larger roles in business, and create their own entrepreneurial ventures, they rely on their own social networking skills.
Customer feedback races through social media at the speed of an F16 in enemy territory and with enormous reach. It can, and does, reach people in every business, café, and home in every global corner. Complimentary buzz about a company’s goods or services can quickly go viral and have propelled little known businesses or people into overnight rock star status. Justin Bieber comes to mind. Countless YouTube stars have been born. Think, Kate Upton. Uber and Lyft took advantage of the platforms as well.
On the flip side, social networks can also be breeding grounds for unreliable feedback. Self-promoting businesses can post questionable information on social networks and have their friends and associates give them the highest praise. Think Yelp, for one. Conversely their rivals can post damning indictments, which may not even be true. Think Politics.
Comments on social networks are not required to be factual, and can be based on rumors, misinformation, guesses, impressions, and dubious motives such as desire for retribution.
Many businesses are relying on online chatter and views to obtain treasured data and incorporate valuable feedback on what customers think. Customer chatter is being mined to make their messaging more relevant.
But some caution should be used before deeply relying on this method of data collection. Much of this mining digs up “me too” data that simply repeats what someone said (e.g. “retweets”) and may not reflect original thoughts, opinions or the degree of someone’s knowledge, experience, or conviction. In other words, it may not deserve as much weight as it is often assigned.
While this kind of data mining can be a powerful tool, it should be further validated with other methods of research. We use blind surveys to ensure conclusions are projectable with a high confidence level before embarking on marketing planning and messaging.
The ROI for learning the customer’s buying criteria in a dependable way is substantial. Use all that is available to you but validate what you get before investing heavily in marketing tools like your website, ads, videos, social media endeavors, print or online brochures, etc.
We have crowd source, crowd fund, crowd fire and so on. Crowd think may, or may not, be useful. Best to validate your suspicions before investing too heavily.