I am currently reading My Life in Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins. He worked long before the internet, let alone social media, began to impact advertising, marketing and business in general. Despite this fact, he remains a legend in the world of advertising.
One thought he presented that struck me was, “We must never judge humanity be ourselves… We must submit all things in advertising, as in everything else, to the court of public opinion” (Hopkins 24). I read this shortly after writing this blog post with Jay Baer on the role social media plays in market research and its subsequent impact on ROI. In my mind, Mr. Hopkins’ thought is as applicable to social media today as it was to walking the streets and talking to the people back in the 1800s. Social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blog comments, etc., provides a framework to conduct market research. Social media allows you to directly connect with your market. Instead of executives and advertisers sitting in their corner offices trying to blindly pinpoint what their consumers want they can ask them. As Mr. Hopkins said, “I have seen hundreds of of attempts and thousands of of projects which had no chance whatever. Just because some bigoted men judged the many by the few” (Hopkins 25).
I am not suggesting you crowd source all of your projects and innovations. Apple and Ikea have spoken up to say that this is not the way. But maybe they aren’t completely right. Some things could very well benefit from crowd sourced research using social media. Maybe not for the overall design or function of the product but certainly helping the designers The example I have in mind is the design of a car. Most of the design aspects of a car you aren’t going to want to crowd source, it would be a nightmare. There may be some areas where it couldn’t hurt. Take the dashboard, this is the driver’s world. I have dismissed cars in the past based on their dashboard. The dashboard has to strike a balance between form and function. The most functional dashboard can be hideous and the most beautiful dashboard can be useless. What if, when trying to decide on the layout and features present in the dashboard, the company were to poll consumers through social media channels? Assuming they already have a social presence the investment in this approach would be close to zero. Sure, you would have to spend time and money monitoring it, but you should be doing that already. There is potential for this minimal investment of time and money to create a breakthrough in the thought process of the design team. Old Spice is a great example of this in the advertising sector.
The great Claude C. Hopkins urges advertisers not to forget the masses. Listen to the customer, the ordinary person. Social media channels make this easier to do than ever. It is not free but it can be very cost effective if done right. Social media acts as a two way street, why not use it as such?
Is there value in using social media as a learning channel as opposed to just a selling channel?