Monday, November 18, 2013

Driving Innovation through Online Communities

This morning at BEI 2013 in Santa Clara, California, Thomas Finkle, Ph.D., CEO of Passenger, discussed how online communities are increasingly driving innovation.  Today, communities in the online space provide both collaboration and insights. In the past brands were in control. For decades, brands basked in the glory of control, control over consumers’ perceptions, impressions and ultimately decisions and ensuing experience.

But, all of that changed with the onset of the social media evolution. These days, the environment has changed drastically and organizations have learned that they must have an active social media presence to be successful. In fact, 85 percent of users believe a company should not only be present, but also interact with its consumers via social media.

So this new concept of the “Wiki Brand” has emerged. A “Wiki Brand” taps into the true power of social networks, brand connections, and customer participation to build real value. “Now, brands recognize that there are communities of customers out there who are relied upon to come up with ideas and carry ideas out through brand advocacy,” said Finkle.

Not only do you have to measure the community of your customers, but you have to impact them as well by making a connection. Brands either live or die because of this dynamic. Therefore, the need to innovate is now more important than ever before.  According to Finkle, you must innovate your brand or you will perish as a company.

“Failure to innovate and stay ahead of your customer has negatively impacted the value and future of brands,” he explained.

At its root, successful innovation is all about customer collaboration and that is what takes place in communities. There is growing evidence that you have to approach the collaboration process more thoughtfully. Another key aspect of successful innovation is understanding customer needs. In fact, Ted Levitt of Harvard University once said, “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill – they want a quarter-inch hole.”

The bottom line, according to Finkle, is you shouldn’t ask yourself ‘What do we have to make?’ Instead, ask ‘What does a customer need done right now?’ Or even better, ‘What will the customer want next?’

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1st, and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCicc. 

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