Ready to Innovate with Social Media? 10 Questions to Ask 

Instagram, Linkedin, and Twitter are platforms for community, but they can also be a source of ideas to drive innovation and speed time to market for product development.

Applied correctly, social collaboration tools, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and even social scorecards help teams determine whether or not they’re prepared to get social input and ideas on product concepts. 

Social media provides organisations with a new avenue for inspiration. It gives managers the knowledge required to determine if their team can successfully gather ideas from a thought community and apply them to product development.

Social media solutions are commonly used in customer support and marketing organizations, however, they can also be applied to the product development process to accelerate time to market. Let’s work with an example.

Company XYZ manufactures beauty products. It is aiming to launch a portable comb and a volumizing hairspray combo that women can easily fit into their small purses. To determine whether a need for this product exists in the market, XYZ asks their target audience to send a picture of the contents of their purse and send it to them via Facebook. After receiving the images, Company XYZ found that 75% of women actually carried a comb and lipstick combination in their small purses. XYZ would have never found this out by a survey; and they would not have found out that this combination also solves other problems for women.  Thus, social media helped Company XYZ avoid the costly mistake of delivering the wrong product to the market. It is a way to do virtual Design Thinking!

The use of social media to drive innovation is a relatively new approach, though it is expected to become an increasingly important methodology for measuring organizational capabilities. The most important aspect of this concept is that it provides organizations the capability to ‘tap into the wisdom of the crowd’ and establish a team of thought leaders to develop, share and build upon ideas. 

Ready to Innovate with Social Media? 10 Questions to Ask - 1

The benefits of using social media to drive innovation include:

  • It’s a new methodology for innovation within a product development organization
  • Allows organizations to identify strengths and weaknesses that will impact the probability of organizational success
  • Helps avoid mistakes of delivering the wrong product to market

Organisations need to test whether they’re ready to utilize social media to drive innovation. The Social Media Readiness Scorecard is a tool, which managers can use to help determine organizational maturity (readiness) to turn ideas into new product concepts.

How it works

The Social Innovation Readiness Scorecard asks critical questions to help organizations determine whether they’re ready to conduct a social marketing technique for generating or fine-tuning an idea for a new product. Areas that the questions address include:

  • How social technologies are currently used beyond product development
  • Level of commitment within management
  • Resource expertise within the social community
  • Readiness of tools to facilitate social innovation
  • Whether organization structure supports top-of-class application of social communities

The scorecard is essentially a spreadsheet with a set of questions, supplemented with a group process.

To answer the questions properly, the group is briefed on the definition of the various dimensions of readiness and then fills out their scorecards individually, ranking the organization’s readiness for each key area on a scale of 1 to 5.

The process works as follows:

  1. A one or two hour meeting consisting of executives and senior directors is organized in real time (this can be remote)
  2. Each member in the meeting is provided with a score card and asked to fill theirs out individually 
  3. The meeting facilitator collects the scorecards to calculate the average score and standard deviation across the board 
  4. If there is a high standard deviation, the facilitator asks some of the low (high) ranking individuals why they rated a dimension low (high). Then, once differences are compared each participant is given the chance to alter their scores, based on common understanding.

Following this assessment, executives are now able to create an action plan. Together with the facilitator, executives take the discussion out of the room and formulate a tune-up plan if needed. This will usually be for areas that scored low in the test. As a result, the organization will be able to prioritize initiatives that will improve the readiness of their social innovation efforts.

Ready to Innovate with Social Media? 10 Questions to Ask - 2

Below is an example of the 10 key questions that managers can ask, using the Social Innovation Readiness Scorecard.

CategoryScale from min. to max. degree
Maturity of social communities1 – Not sured
2 – Pilot
3 – Only within a single function
4 – Cross-functional/whole company
5 – Inside and outside
Executive involvement1 – None
2 – Functional support in one area
3 – Multiple areas
4 – C-Suite
5 – CEO and C-Suite
Defined objectives of social innovation1 – None
2 – Only strategic
3 – Strategically defined, no specific objectives
4 – Multiple objectives, minimally defined
5 – Multiple objectives, clearly defined
Social community expertise1 – None
2 – Ad-hoc resource
3 – Expert resource
4 – Experts with a function
5 – Experts with a social center of excellence
Social technology investment1 – None
2 – Consumer tools (Facebook/Twitter)
3 – SaaS-based collaboration tools, vendor identified
4 – SaaS-based tools used in a pilot project in company
5 – SaaS-based third-party tools utilized in production
Maturity of innovation process1 – None
2 – Not formal, but ad hoc
3 – Documented
4 – Documented and followed
5 – Center of excellence
Responsiveness to new ideas1 – No response
2 – Occasional response to a few programs
3 – Consistent response
4 – Integrated response with rewards
5 – Consistent and major response
Quality of idea repositories1 – Ad hoc
2 – Local/silos
3 – Consistent response
4 – Global
5 – Global & integrated with outside ideas
Recognition systems1 – None
2 – Verbal acknowledgement
3 – Informal program
4 – Formal program
5 – Significant recognition such as office space
Reward systems1 – None
2 – Small spot awards ($100 gifts)
3 – Large spot awards
4 – Resources to pursue innovation
5 – Both large awards and resources

Using the above scorecard Company XYZ could test to see if they’re ready to use Facebook to generate new product ideas.

If the company scored high in all areas except for reward systems and executive involvement, then it could address those two areas to be ready to drive innovation through the use of social media. 

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John Carter

Principal at TCGen, John Carter is one of the co-inventors of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones. As a widely respected advisor to technology firms, John has worked with blue chip companies such as Amazon, Apple, CISCO, Fitbit and HP. As part of his extensive career, he has authored the book, Innovate Products Faster, and also suggested and implemented Apple’s New Product Process (ANPP).