We’ve all heard people talk about how the Internet has made everything move faster. When something dramatic happens (whether it’s a crisis or a cause for celebration) it travels quickly around personal networks, industries and even the world.
Marketers often see this as dangerous. The watchmen guarding your brand must be vigilant and ready to react the minute they hear the slightest whisperings of a problem. Those that don’t notice, fail to act quickly or react badly are punished heavily by customers.
But the Internet as a real time gauge of feeling can be positive, amazing and ultimately useful for marketers. When Christian Hernandez from Facebook spoke at The Economist Big Rethink event earlier this month, he described seeing Facebook behaviour during the World Cup. When they tracked the word ‘goal’ in status updates they could literally see millions of people around the world shouting goal through social media. This is a nice image, taking the traditional goal celebration shared between football fans and the people in their living room or a bar and connecting it to an even bigger network.
Another example of the benefit of realtime was shown by Håkan Thyr from Bazaarvoice when he spoke at eCircle Connect Europe conference (see Myles Davidson from I-kos blog here for more on this event). He showed how Dell uses reviews as a crucial component in product management and R&D. At a time when Dell was being criticized heavily, the company decided to set a goal that all their products should be getting a rating of at least 4.5 out of 5. When the project started they were getting 3.7 average.
Developers trawled the reviews for insight and changed their products accordingly. In order to maintain the high standard, new products are given a set time on the market and if they are rated as 3.5 upwards reviews are used to adjust the product. Lower scoring products are simply dropped altogether. This whole process has sped up the process of product development, customer feedback and product assessment compared to traditional evaluations through focus groups. By doing this Dell has moved away from the ‘Dell hell’ tag and re-built its reputation for quality products.
Today, as the UK budget is announced, whilst journalists are interviewing experts for newspaper articles and TV slots, the coalition government will be able to see a much more instant reaction through twitter, forums and social media. They may not be able to react instantly or even do anything with that information in the next few months, but they still have the ability to listen in on the instant reaction which offers new opportunities and possibilities.