4 Companies That Are Testing Products Through Social Media

by Summer Boone on Jun 03, 2010

Using volunteers to test your product or service before it hits the market or to help bring it to market is not a groundbreaking idea. We see movie trailers, taste testing, and free samples as consistent part of business and marketing.

The difference with social media is the ability to gather your market research on a more intimate, transparent, and exponential level.  Now it’s not just a company sharing a sample with me for feedback.

Public Shared Feedback is Better

With social media, the feedback and testing is shared with both of our communities.  All of the feedback can be tracked and addressed by both sides, the customer and the brand.

Creating a better two way communication channel helps a company find the pulse of what customers are saying or not saying about a new product.  It also allows a brand to generate buzz and create community around a product before the official launch.

Let’s take a look at some lessons from four companies who find value in using social media in this way: Phonebooth, Glass, Venmo and General Motors.

Phonebooth

Phonebooth.com launched Phonebooth Free (a free business phone system with multiple users, groups and auto-attendants) in it’s testing phase using this platform.  Their Social Marketing Manager, Chris Moody, noted three key takeaways they learned in the process.

  • Listen and Engage–Tools such as  TwitterUserVoice and email allow for an extensive loop of feedback.
  • Stay Focused–When communicating, don’t set the expectation that every feature will be implemented quickly. The important things you need to address will rise to the top.
  • Scale Smartly–Know your limitations and plan your growth accordingly.

“The combination of these three lessons has allowed us to grow exponentially without degrading the customer experience. We still listen and engage, but are staying aligned with our goals as we grow. Doing this allows us to create a better product and user experience,”  says Moody.

Glass

Glass is also using social media in the testing phase. This is a pretty slick tool to enhance the user experience and community online.  Jenn Beese, their Community Manager, has some insight on the process as well.

  • Have Honest Dialogues–Feedback is very important. Be part of the community, don’t  just manage one.
  • Expect Challenges and Be Open to Change–Knowing what your users see in the product is extremely refreshing. It challenges the priorities and structure your team has created.
  • Keep it Fun–Using riddle contests on Twitter, sneak-peeks of a new feature on your blog or even gumballs at a conference can help in building relationships by creating interest and having a good time.

Glass is still in beta and is offered through invite only. They have created a code for the first 100 SoFresh readers.  The code is “sofresh” if you would like to try it out.

Venmo

Venmo is a product that allows you to spend cash via text messaging.  Jameel Faruk, Venmo’s Product Evangelist, shares his thoughts on testing with social media.

  • Follow the Way Users Interact with the Product–This helps teach us what we are capable of.
  • Facilitate an Intimate Connection with Users–Social media helps us to see each user as a person with a face.
  • Remaining Transparent–We are enabled to tailor our product more the users liking.

General Motors

One company that really impresses is General Motors.  The auto industry has a 3-5 year development period as opposed to 3-5 months on a tech product.  GM used customer feedback from a test group of 100 people in a “sneak peek” of vehicles that had not launched yet to make the critical decision to not mass produce a particular model.  Chris Barger, Director of Social Media at GM, shares some insight.

  • Be Courageous– This gains credibility.
  • Trust Your Feedback–If you are not arrogant you can prevent loss.
  • People are Appreciative–They appreciate the opportunity to be heard and know that you are not just hearing them, you are listening.
  • Do Not Play Solely to Your Fans–Include your critics, not your trolls.

“It’s important for us to be overt in showing that we are listening and that customer feedback is making a difference in the decisions we make.” Chris Barger

If you can find your customers online, there are great opportunities to involve them in your testing and feedback loops. Know where your customer lives and take advantage of these new spaces where they are spending time.

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Post Author

Summer works for 3 Screen Productions. She is a brand evangelist who is passionate about building community through social media. Offline you can find Summer investing in local teenagers and serving as a mentor in their lives....

  • http://writeonglass.com jbeese

    There's some really great advice here Summer. I think what Chris Barger said, “Do Not Play Solely to Your Fans–Include your critics, not your trolls” is extremely important. It's easy to hide from criticism. One of the major benefits of social media is that it makes it harder to do so. It provides an opportunity to come face to face with constructive criticism that you might otherwise tune out. That is powerful because not only can you improve your product, but it shows that you are truly listening. You can't have selective hearing in social media.

    Thanks again for including Glass; we're in amazing company! Good luck to Phonebooth, Venmo and GM!

  • Miri

    Phenomenal post. Integrating Social Media to market..well, Social Media. I applaud (and I'm sure the Companies you listed do too) your savvy ways to share these companies' strategies. Credibility, feedback, two-way communication is all important…but MOST important? fans, like you, who can appreciate Companies like these for tactically embracing the future. “Two Thumbs Up!”

  • Summer Joy

    Once you open up the doors to the world, the world will come. That includes the positive and the negative feedback. This points back to the character of the person handling the incoming voices. Strong character with a great product is the perfect combination in the social media space. Thanks for your input Jenn and good luck with Glass!

  • Summer Joy

    Thanks for the feedback and kind words Miri! A great way to build brand evangelists is to engage them, and this is a great space to do that!