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Social Networking in Product Design & Development

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By Dr Preeti Khanna, Associate Professor, School of Business Management, NMIMS

In today’s fast-moving time, it is challenging for companies to innovate quickly to come up with new or improved versions of products based on the customer need which keep on changing from time to time. New product development is a complete process employed to handle an entirely new version of the digital product, or improving an existing one or replace a previous version with the new one in the market. In this process, the use of social media, social communities, and social network analysis can significantly revamp the traditional new product development (NPD) process by providing companies with real-time insights, customer feedback, and opportunities for collaboration.

a) Social network analysis can help companies gain insights into customer preferences, behavior, and demographics by analyzing data from social media platforms. This information can inform product design, marketing strategies, and targeting efforts.
b) Social media provides a platform for companies to collaborate with customers, partners, and even competitors. Crowdsourcing and open innovation approaches can be facilitated through social media, allowing companies to tap into external expertise and ideas.
c) Rapid feedback loops allow for quicker adjustments and iterations, reducing the time it takes to develop and launch a product.
d) Social network analysis serves as a valuable tool for refining the beta testing procedure. to recognize influential members within the beta testing community, monitor the dissemination of app-related details, and pinpoint conceivable challenges related to the app’s user interface.

Following are a few examples that illustrate how social networking and social media enable companies to focus on picking up trends and understanding what differentiates their products from those of their competitors.

“My Starbucks Idea”, a crowdsourcing platform developed by Starbucks helped the company to gather suggestions, feedback, and ideas from customers and fans of the brand to improve. According to the company’s website, from 2008 – 2013, Starbucks used over 275 customer ideas out of a total of 1,50,000 idea submissions, ideas which ranged from suggestions about new products and services to ways in which it could improve corporate responsibility. The literature discussed crowdsourcing platform is an innovative platform to find ideas from external stakeholders and has been used by large companies like Cisco, Dell, Microsoft, and Unilever.

Lyft used social media to test the concept of its women-only ridesharing service, Lyft Pink. The company created a landing page where users could sign up for a waitlist and promoted it through its website, social media channels, and email marketing campaigns. Within a few weeks, the landing page generated over 100,000 email addresses from interested users. This showed Lyft that there was strong demand for the Lyft Pink program, and it gave the company the confidence to move forward with the concept.

The Galaxy Fold is a foldable smartphone, released in 2019 has a 7.3-inch display that folds in half to create a smaller, more compact device. Samsung used Reddit to get feedback on the prototype of the Galaxy Fold. The company created a subreddit r/GalaxyFold for the phone and invited users to share their thoughts on the design and functionality. Samsung also hosted a series of AMAs (Ask Me Anything) with engineers and designers who worked on the phone which helped the company to improve the design of the phone and to make it more appealing to its target audience.

According to the 2023 Consumer Trends Report, 24% of consumers between the ages of 18-54 search for brands using social media instead of a search engine. This number jumps to 36% among Gen Z consumers 2. For companies targeting tech-savvy consumers, it is advisable to form collaborations with influential tech bloggers, reviewers, and experts. By engaging with these expert nodes, brands can gain credibility and create a positive impact on consumers’ product perceptions.

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