One of the most overlooked benefits of building or facilitating an online community around your brand is the market research opportunities. Your brand community – even if nascent and emerging – consists of hundreds or thousands of customers that are familiar enough with your company (and care enough about it) to self-identify as a fan/friend/member. What better laboratory are you going to find?
A primary element of your social media activation strategy should be at least quarterly surveys of your fans. That should just be routine. But sometimes, you can use your brand community for specific, targeted research and product development efforts.
As I describe in the video post below, Del Monte developed a successful new product (Snausages Bacon and Eggs dog snacks) based almost entirely on feedback from their brand community. (NOTE: I eat snausages in this video. Not a great idea, as it turns out.)
(Video got messed up on this, but for obvious reasons, this was a one take situation)
Here’s another good piece on the subject of using customers for research, from John Kembel on MarketingProfs.
Are you thinking of your online fans as a source for product or service feedback BEFORE you create the product, not just after it launches? Maybe you should.