Entrepreneurs often have to deal with new and ill-defined product concepts, whose context of use is still poorly understood and whose commercial applications are not fully explored yet. Relevant, up to date and rapid information on a broad range of strategic topics such as competitors, potential customers, potential marketing activities, regulatory information, vendors and procurement, and collaboration with other actors in the market is crucial. Consumers more and more use social media to share their opinions and knowledge with others online. Whatever is being discussed online is searchable. Hence, this opens up new opportunities for acquiring relevant information that could support venture development. This blogpost provides some pointers on how entrepreneurs can use social media as information retrieval tools for supporting venture development.
How to start the quest for relevant information?
Although acquiring online information seems easy, finding the relevant information is quite challenging considering the overload of available information. Therefore, it is crucial that entrepreneurs narrow their search scope and be as specific as possible in formulating their information needs. Entrepreneurs need to ask themselves: What kind of information do I need and would be the most valuable? What keywords are associated to my strategic topics? The identified keywords will be the entrepreneur’s guide in their quest for finding relevant content. These keywords facilitate finding platforms on which actors are located that could assist entrepreneurs with fulfilling their information needs. Examples of tools that accommodate finding the right platforms are the following:
– Google Alert: This tool helps to track keywords and enables entrepreneurs to identify platforms around their keywords.
– Hashtags.org: Hastags (e.g #socialmedia) are used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. They are useful for locating relevant communities on Twitter. The site www.hashtags.org enables entrepreneurs to check if there are hashtags used that are associated with the keywords in which they are interested. These hashtags than can be used to locate the people that use them. These people could be part of the community entrepreneurs want to listen and talk to.
– Listorious.com: This site enables entrepreneurs to find anyone by topic, region or profession on twitter. In addition, it provides information on the top 140 lists on twitter; the top 140 most listed people and the 40 most followed people.
– Search for communities directly: Big social networking platforms like Linkedin and Facebook have a search option that also enables entrepreneurs to find people and groups associated with their keywords.
– Google groups: Of course there are also a lot of stand-alone forums and groups that do not use Linkedin and Facebook as their preferred community host. Google Group helps to find these communities.
Using social media content for venture development
After relevant platforms have been identified, they can be strategically used for fulfilling entrepreneurs’ information needs. For this conducting four behaviors are useful.
- Observing: This behavior entails observing what people are saying online. This behavior enables entrepreneurs to learn more about consumers needs, wants, experiences, complaints, motives for using certain products and services. In addition, it is also helpful to learn more about competitors and trends.
- Questioning: This behavior entails asking questions. For this question and answering platforms like Quora and LinkedAnswers are especially useful. These sites enable people to ask questions and others can answer and respond.
- (Idea) Networking: This behavior involves discovering relevant individuals with whom entrepreneurs can connect and engage.
- Experimenting: this behavior aims to test ideas regarding the venture idea with the general online public. Examples of such behavior are posting mock-ups online and elicit comments or posting two variances of the products or service and ask the public which one they prefer.
Key Take Away:
Social media are useful for information retrieval purposes that can aid venture development. For this three steps are needed:
- Determine relevant keywords
- Identify relevant social media platforms
- Use these platforms to conduct the four behaviors observing, questioning (idea) networking and experimenting.