9: Rely on Your Community for Growth and Innovation

The opening example for this chapter is "dew-mocracy," a Web site created for the Mountain Dew soft drink for its enthusiasts to promote its myriad of new "flavors." The site was image and experience oriented, offering entertainment videos and an online game, and a suggestion box where users could vote for additional flavors.

(EN: the author goes into a lot of detail to describe the cool factor of the experience - but I balk at this. Such campaigns attract a lot of attention for a short amount of time, but I don't have the sense the constitute a social network. Aside of the suggestion box, there is no mention of interactive features, nor do I have the sense such a community will persist once the "cool" factor wears off. As such, it's an effective attention-getter, but not a good model for building a sustainable social network.)

Open Innovation

The product development process has become steadily more open: from back-room operations where no customer was involved, to considering market research, to conducting focus groups to gather input from customers that is used in designing products. The social network enables companies to be completely open, and let customers scrutinize and provide input to the product development process.

(EN: The author follows with a volley of suggestions without much in the way of proof - that open innovation creates better ideas, faster, and cheaper than traditional product development processes. The benefits of getting customers directly involved seems self-evident, but making grandiose claims without proof, or any consideration of the potential drawbacks, is mere cheerleading.)

Suggestions for Engaging Your Followers

The usual litany of random bits and pieces follows:

Success depends on listening to the right people. Especially on the Internet, people enjoy expressing themselves and will participate in discussions for the sake of being social, when they have no stake in what is being discussed. Specifically, the suggestions and opinions of people who are not likely to purchase or use your product can lead you in the wrong direction.

There's a suggestion, based on the Mountain Dew site, that it can be useful to group visitors into "teams." It can be easier to manage a smaller number of groups than to manage an open conversation with thousands of individuals; the sense of team competition may drive them to act in a more focused and expedient manner; and it enables you to get different ideas from different sets of people rather than a single idea that gathers the greatest consensus (the most popular idea is not always the best).

Using social media for the sake of a single campaign can be effective, but you should also focus on sustaining interest in-between the specific instances where you need something from your audience. Once your campaign ends, and the crowd dissipates, it requires significant effort to bring them back together for the next campaign. It is far easier and more cost-effective to invest in the resources that will create sustained value, so that the audience sticks around.