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Can Facebook Help Manufacturers Create Better Products?

Can Facebook Help Manufacturers Create Better Products?

Manufacturers who are active and engaged on Facebook are more likely to introduce product innovation than those who are not.

If you’re killing time during business hours on Facebook, you may actually be onto something valuable. Well, no, — scrolling through your sister-in-law’s vacation album is unlikely to help your business. But recent studies show that staying attuned to user feedback on Facebook may actually help manufacturers create better products.

The practice in question, social listening, is the process of monitoring social media to identify and assess what users are saying about a company, individual, brand, product, or service. We’ve written about how social listening can help your business — you can gain market intelligence and learn how your company, products, and services are being perceived.

But two researchers from the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) have taken things a step farther. They studied data from nearly 3,000 German manufacturing and service firms to analyze the role that Facebook plays in the innovation process. What they found was that the probability that a company introduced a product innovation was significantly determined by firms’ adoption of a Facebook page and by the activity by users, measured by both quantity and quality.

The researchers, Irene Bertschek and Reinhold Kesler, discuss their findings in detail in this article published in the Harvard Business Review. So you can skip to the bottom line, we’ve pulled out a few key takeaways for manufacturers:

Negative comments are your friend…

…if you take them seriously.

While you might cringe when you seed a negative customer comment on Facebook, what the researchers found was encouraging: “Surprisingly, only the share of negative user comments was significantly predictive of innovation, perhaps suggesting that customers were helping to steer companies away from bad ideas.”

To make this work for you, it’s important that you pay attention to negative reviews, actively engage with them, and pass along relevant information to the people within your company who can address the issues. For more ideas, check out this post for tips on dealing with negative customer comments.

Simply being on social media isn’t enough — you need to be actively and intelligently engaging.

The study found that companies who were “using keywords in their posts that encourage users to leave feedback were significantly more likely to release a new or improved product.”

In other words, to gain the kind of valuable feedback that allows your products and services to improve, you need to be intelligent about soliciting it. “When developing social media strategies,” suggest Bertschek and Kesler, “companies should not only focus on marketing aspects, but also consider the potential for the firm’s innovation success.”

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