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Using Social Media to Ask the Right Questions

2 minute read | September 2011

Decades of improved supply chain efficiency and management have produced undisputed gains for companies across the globe. Supply chain management is now the rule, not the differentiator. In today’s demand economy, leveraging untapped pools of consumer demand is crucial for competitive advantage. “Plus, the supply chain leaves out one important part: the customer.” said Brad Little from NM Incite at Nielsen’s Consumer 360 Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. “In today’s demand economy companies need to get closer to the customer,” he stressed.

Innovation around what consumers want is essential, but identifying what consumers want requires listening. The explosion of social media intelligence offers a vast opportunity to listen and engage with customers to shape products and services that tap into unmet demand.

Social media is the fastest growing media in history. Today, more than three in five Internet users engage in social media and usage continues to grow every day. In fact, NM Incite research reveals that one-quarter of social media and online discussion mentions a product, service or brand. And this exposure to positive buzz can drive additional sales.

The opportunity to engage with and listen to consumers via social media is clear, and more and more brands are finding it essential rather than optional. “However, the wide range of opportunities given by social media creates uncertainty for many reasons,” says Brad Little. “How do we engage the right way? How do we measure the influence of paid media against earned media? How do we implement what we learned from social media into our organization?” While there are many examples of both hits and misses when it comes to social media, using the right tools, metrics, and appropriate strategy, brands can leverage social media intelligence for competitive advantages and build successful demand.

One success story demonstrates how social media was used to reshape a baby diaper campaign with enhanced results by combining both listening and asking research. The traditional survey results showed that the majority of consumers believed that “environmentally friendly” was the most important product attribute. But in authentic, online conversations, consumers indicated that “organic” and “avoiding diaper rash” were the most important product features. The social media analysis revealed a more accurate picture of consumer sentiment around product desires. This lead to a new campaign theme centered on “Caring,” which produced phenomenal results for the brand.


To win in this new business model, a company must stop fine-tuning the supply chain and shift to an information model built around the rapidly changing demands and needs states of their most profitable consumer groups. It means an end to constantly pushing products to consumers with one-way advertising and move to a new model where adding customer value, transparent two-way feedback loops and conversational skills are the focus.

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