Social media

Customer-Driven Innovation: How Social Media is Changing How We Innovate

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Companies like Starbucks, Nokia, P&G, and BMW are using social media to transform the way they innovate. Starbucks launched My Starbucks Idea, a website to crowdsource ideas for their products, customer experience, and social responsibility programs using Force.com, a cloud computing application offered by customer relationship management (CRM) and cloud computing juggernaut Salesforce.com.

Starbucks has successfully developed dozens of new products, continuously improved customer experience and has identified hundreds of ideas on how to improve its social responsibility programs, all from real world customers. The My Starbucks Idea website has been online since March of 2008 and the company has realized huge benefits in the form of reducing its cost of innovating, reaching customers, and driving brand engagement. For example, in September of 2011, Kristie73 posted “I know it’s been mentioned, but with the holidays approaching, I’d love a sugar-free peppermint mocha.  What’s wrong with the skinny mocha?” The Starbucks team immediately responded with “The beverage team is working on this idea.  We’ll have more news to share later in the year.” In December the Starbucks team posted “Skinny Mochas are now available.  Ask your barista.  You can also customize it with sugar-free syrups like hazelnut, cinnamon dolce, vanilla, and caramel.” That is social media in action and a great representation of how effective it can be when employed properly.

Similar to Starbucks, Dell launched “IdeaStorm,” their crowdsourcing website using Force.com. According to the Dell IdeaStorm website, to-date members have contributed 16,495 ideas, which have been promoted 749,713 times, and have received 94,149 comments! Through IdeaStorm Dell has reduced the cost and complexity of having an ongoing, meaningful dialogue with its customers.  One way Dell is innovating on the use of its crowdsourcing platform is through “Storm Sessions,” which are real-time online events where members of the Dell product or service teams ask for ideas on specific products or services, and engage members of the IdeaStorm as collaborators in the Dell innovation process. Like Dell, Nokia has unleashed the power of social media through the company’s IdeasProject website. What makes IdeasProject unique is that “Users that innovate can develop exactly what they want, rather than relying on manufacturers to act as their, often very imperfect, agents. Moreover, individual users do not have to develop everything they need on their own: they can benefit from innovations developed and freely shared by others, which leads us to open innovation, another principle of IdeasProject.” In many ways Nokia is combining the power of crowdsourcing and the open source development community to drive innovation and create applications for its mobile phone OS, simply stated, genius.

Think about your company. What do you do? How are you innovating today (if at all)? The simple fact is that you don’t need a huge budget to crowdsource. You don’t even need to leverage a complex platform like Force.com, you can use social media websites like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to crowdsource ideas for your company’s products and services. Every week social media platforms like these release new features that make crowdsourcing ideas simpler and more efficient for small businesses.  You can benefit from the innovation lessons learned by Fortune 500 companies, and use social media to create the next big breakthrough for your company.

What are you waiting for? Start innovating today!