There are many questions about when to use social media, what do I do with it when I have the information and can I trust it. In my time working in innovation, I have learned that one of the principles that make an innovator successful is the concept of encountering the desperate.
What does this mean?
Encountering the desperate simply means that if you are trying to make something new happens, one of the best partners to collaborate with is the "desperate". This is a person that is in a bind and will be more flexible as it pertains to taking on a new idea. They are usually wanting to minimize their risk but need to try something risky to make it happen.
In fact, one of the key relationship as it pertains to social media is the idea of time versus information. Essentially, Social Media is a good solution when I don't have the time to get that information. And a great use case of this scenario is during the acquisition cycle.
A few years ago when I worked with parts of the organization who lead the acquisition of new business, I observed something very interesting. When it came to buying new businesses, most of the due diligence focused on quantifying the value of the business but a great deal of it did not focus on gathering key consumer insights. In fact, I was shocked to learning during these experiences that many executives of very large companies gather little to no information consumer insights on the company they are acquiring, relying more on canned information, personally collected data (they try it themselves and their gut). This brings up a great example of people making HUGE decision where they don't have enough time to get the information.
Why social media then?
Speed - we all know social media information is happening all the time. Because collecting consumer insight is very fast, ones ability to get primary data where there is little makes it a great way to help a company make a more informed decision.
Unbiased - If a company is trying to decide whether it wants to invest a ton of money into a new business, social media's unbiased nature (the data is what it is) makes it a great method for collecting consumer insight.
Competitive Analysis - Because you can look at all your competition easily, quickly and cheaply you can get a much better consumer competitive analysis than ever before. This makes the data richer and more complete when before this time there was no way to collect anything meaningful.
Did I successfully prove my point?
A number of years ago, I did get the chance to apply social media during the process of making an acquisition. During this project, the social media data WAS the method by which the consumer insights were developed and I was told by the key stakeholder who trusted me using this process, that while it was why the decision was made, the executive team did feel much better about taking the leap knowing that when they didn't have time to get the information they were able to get the social media picture.
Oh yeah...that was 2007. 4 years before this huge thing called social media hit the streets. Is this a way to stroke my ego because I was using it so long ago...actually no! It is more about the fact that when you encounter the desperate and there is not time to get the information you can drive change...AND that is what I am interested in helping people see....