Companies Using Social Media for Product Development

Companies are eavesdropping on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare chatter, slyly picking up on consumers’ likes and dislikes.

According to a New York Times article, companies are mining data from social media on an unprecedented scale. And they’re doing it without consumers realizing they’re listening in, according to the newspaper.

For many consumer brands, social media has become an “extension of market research departments.”

Facebook = Giant Focus Group

While consumers might see Facebook as a place to trade gossip with friends, companies such as Frito-Lay view the popular social media site as a giant focus group. Lay’s app “Do Us a Flavor,” for example, asks fans to weigh in on potential new potato chip flavors. This crowdsourcing allows Lays to efficiently decide where, and to whom, these products are sold.

Similarly, Walmart collects social media data to decide what types of products to stock. If consumers in California are tweeting their love for spicy potato chips, Walmart will increase its spicy potato chip offerings for that market. If the company realizes that a lot of Walmart shoppers are recommending the newest Batman movie to their Facebook friends, Walmart will make sure to have plenty of movie-related merchandise on hand.

Privacy Worries

“There’s mountains and mountains of data being created in social media,” Ravi Raj, vice president for products for @WalmartLabs, told the newspaper.

Raj said his company only analyzes Facebook posts that users have made public.

On the other hand, Lay’s app gives the company access to a user’s “location, gender, birthday, photos, list of friends and status updates; the products for which he or she has clicked “like”; and more,” according to the newspaper.

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