While interviewing executives at companies across multiple industries, we quickly learned how challenging it was to harness consumer conversation to make change happen beyond pure marketing and customer service – especially in manufacturing, R&D and (in the case of the television industry) programming.
One global food company found itself blindsided when a new promotional flavor of a popular product took off unexpectedly through tweets and Facebook posts, all of which was organic. Production was just not prepared to meet demand as their run schedules are planned almost a year in advance and are virtually impossible to modify on quick notice. The executive interviewed was concerned that the company kept increasing manufacturing capacity around the world but hasn’t found inventive ways to add in flexibility to deal with sudden increase in demand, especially for new flavors and products where demand is relatively unknown. Social media will only heighten this disparity.
Although somewhat more flexible, the TV broadcasters we interviewed also find it very hard to make changes to a season if consumer conversations on social media highlight problems or lack of interest in a particular show. Most programs have been filmed and edited long before they are broadcast. That said, one executive at a cable company that airs many reality TV shows said that they can often add more screen time for a character during the season and certainly in later seasons if they see he or she is generating lots of social media interest.
Some companies are learning how to incorporate feedback into their product design. An executive at a leading consumer electronics company talked about how the company incorporated consumer feedback from social media into the packaging, user information and instructions for a new product before launch. He said social media has become one of many inputs into the product development process. Eight months ago it wasn’t used at all.
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