How Social Media Helps Customers Co-Create Products

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Co-creation with customers was a regular practice at some companies even before the emergence of social media. Now social media makes it easier and more effective for customers to engage in the product development process.

Figure 1: Touch-point Experience across the Customer Lifecycle – Co-creating

Recently I had the opportunity to work with a company from the earliest days of new product design all the way through launch and two phases of product diversification. This example stands out as being unique because the company’s entire product management approach was guided by social media. This business case study is about a Social Business Application called Xeesm and the company behind this product is Xeequa.

Gathering Initial Product Requirements
The company’s leadership team saw a need for a product that would help people manage their social sites. It was meant to be a free widget that everybody could use and share freely . . . in essence, a contribution to the social ecosystem. Xeesm was designed to be easily installed. At first, there was neither a business plan nor a long term product strategy. The tool was offered to existing customers and friends of the company.

At the core of the tool was one key feature that was part of all Xeequa products: an embedded function that allowed users to provide instant feedback. Ultimately, this function was responsible for turning the Xeesm product into a whole new social business solution. Beta users provided in aggregate over 1,000 responses, feature requests and bug reports that quickly revolutionized the product.

Product Management Challenges
The flood of crowd-sourced feedback provided challenges as customers drove the product in a direction neither the product management team nor company leadership envisioned. One of the first decisions made was to invest in this product even though its “strategic direction” was still being determined.

Customer Recognition and Responsibilities
In the months following this decision, the product management team recognized the efforts of individual customers and beta users by sharing their ideas. The team publicly featured each of the ideas provided by customers and encouraged others to provide more inputs.

The company blog helped to highlight upcoming changes and new features. Those posts laid out some of the rationale for the releases. They were written in a very transparent fashion, with consideration of the problems, and they tied in the opportunities that might be in the “next” application. The beta community also seemed to be doing research alongside the company and that vindicated the community.

The product roadmap was drafted by selecting the most wanted features over the “nice to haves.” Today, customers have become integrated into the product strategy. As a beta user, I recognize the power I have as a user supplying my input, but my input has to make sense for the entire ecosystem. It’s great to feel some ownership of this product – other users and I helped to create a future direction for the product.

Product Strategy
The Xeesm case is interesting also from a product strategy point of view. The typical “strategy model” is that a company develops a product, determines a certain direction for the product, and then markets to customers, encouraging customers to follow the strategy of the company.

While at first there wasn’t a strategy or plan, today, the Xeesm strategy is to build the best social relationship management product based on user needs, usage pattern and collaboration with visionary users. If you ask the Xeesm Product Manager for the long term direction of the product he will point you to a page on their website where it answers this question with “Where do YOU want to take it.”

This document “Social Media under One Roof: Integrate Social Media with the TCE Model” is composed of nine sections. Three sections are written by Sampson Lee, and experts in each specific domain contributed the other six sections: Wendy Soucie from Wendy Soucie Consulting; Karl Havard from pownum; Jim Sterne from Web Analytics Association; Axel Schultze from Xeesm; Rick Mans from Capgemini; and Guy Stephens from Foviance.

Section ONE: Where Social Media meets Customer Life Stages
Section TWO: Social Media and Research & Development
Section THREE: Social Media and Branding/Public Relations
Section FOUR: Social Media and Marketing
Section FIVE: Social Media and Sales
Section SIX: Social Media and Operations
Section SEVEN: Social Media and Customer Service
Section EIGHT: Integrating Social Media with Total Customer Experience
Section NINE: Managing Your Brand and Social Media with One System

Click here to read the 30-page complete document in PDF format.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Wendy,

    As you’ve demonstrated co-creation works very well in the high-tech industries. Some people might suggest it would not work as well in other more mundane sectors like, say, insurance.

    That’s just not true. We helped an innovative insurance company, yes they do exist, to gather input from potential customers for a new product line via an on-line portal. For this staid industry we captured and ranked thousand’s of ideas for input into the product development process.

    Just because it might be a low involvement purchase for most people don’t underestimate the high-involvement of a critical few customers.

    Thanks,
    Adam Ramshaw
    Genroe

    If you want to improve your customer experience download our free 4 Steps to Customer Experience Management whitepaper .

  2. Adam,

    Thanks for sharing a super example of how any business who is interested in engaging with their audience and customers can find the right social media channel that helps them meet business goals. I appreciate your link to the whitepaper as well. I will check it out and add your example to another white paper I am working on for product development.

    You might want to share that with the PDMA – product development and management association. Here in Wisconsin, both American Family and CUNA are active in product groups of this kind and AM FAM is really engaged!

    Wendy

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