In addition, companies can take advantage of fragmented channels to perform targeted, inexpensive product research — partly because customers are already using these channels to describe what they love and loathe about companies’ offerings. Companies that collect and analyze this data can use it to improve and shorten product development cycles, which in turn can lead to increased predictability of product successes. General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, for example, author of GM’s Fastlane Blog, says that the consumer intelligence he gets from reading the comments on his blog is better than what he’s ever received from traditional market research channels such as surveys and focus groups. And he gets it for free.
3. Web 2.0 offers a bullhorn for consumer complaints. Learn from computer maker Dell’s mistake: In 2005, it ignored a single blogger’s complaint about its poor customer service, only to see that posting set off an avalanche of negative commentary online that eventually reached traditional media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In the months that followed, Dell’s customer satisfaction rating, market share, and share price in the United States all plummeted.
Rather than ignoring — or fearing — criticism generated in Web 2.0 forums, companies should seize Web 2.0 tools to respond. For example, when frustrated JetBlue customers launched a blog recounting the hours that the airline left them stranded on the tarmac during a February 2007 storm, JetBlue responded not with a traditional press release but by posting a video apology from its CEO on YouTube. The video was viewed 40,000 times in its first seven days online, during which time JetBlue received thousands of supportive e-mails and phone calls from consumers. In addition, JetBlue was praised by blogger pundits for successfully incorporating social media into crisis communications.
Social media need not set off a panic. Although it’s true that companies can no longer count on the power of one-way messaging, it’s also important to realize that new platforms carry new potential benefits. Furthermore, building competency with the new platforms is not an option; it’s a requirement for any company that wants to ensure its reputation is not hijacked. In the interactive context, traditional marketing campaigns are no longer enough; getting the desired message to the target audience takes vigilance and constant adjustment to the fast-changing communications landscape.
Stefan Eikelmann (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton based in Düsseldorf. He focuses on information and communication technologies and leads the firm’s related engagements in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, and Eastern Europe. His main areas of activity relate to large-scale transformation programs, as well as strategy, organization, and operations.
Jad Hajj (email@example.com) is an associate with Booz Allen based in Riyadh and Beirut. He focuses on information and communication technologies and has global experience in strategic and business planning, technology planning, marketing planning, product development, regulations, change management, and operating models.
Michael Peterson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a principal with Booz Allen based in Munich. He focuses on information and communication technologies with particular emphasis on strategic planning, marketing and sales planning, Internet business models, and industry-level disruptive trends and insights.
Ghassan Hasbani, Christina Marsch, and Karim Sabbagh also contributed to this article.