Leveraging Social Networks to Develop Radically New Products
Journal of Product Innovation Management, Forthcoming
21 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2015 Last revised: 22 Sep 2017
Date Written: 2015
In this article, the authors consider the nexus of social networks and radically new products. These new products are so innovative that they forge new product categories, and social networks might be particularly fruitful in their development, dissemination, and help to foster growth and acceptance. Several social networks concepts are brought to bear on these issues, from the class diffusion model, to current considerations of lead users and emerging ideas about crowd-sourcing. In particular, the classic diffusion model provides parameters to reflect innovative consumer behavior, and it is suggested that, in complement to studies that seek customer traits to identify innovators, social network concepts and indices of degree, betweenness, and closeness centrality are very well-suited to identifying customers embedded in social networks whose relational ties are indicative of their likely influence and stature. Next, lead users are considered in the specific context of health care, and it is suggested that online forums provide numerous benefits to customer patients as well as opportunities to health care providers. Next, the dynamics of social networks were considered as they apply to cutting-edge ideas about crowd-sourcing, movements that companies are exploring to be radically open to customer feedback and suggestions. This article closes with an example of a novel appeal that bridges social networks and radically new products — the challenge of solving societal difficulties, from food scarcity, to environmental pollutants, to weather patterns, to discovering treatments for cancer or other medical conditions.
Practitioner Points: Companies can readily identify innovative customers by using social networks indices of centrality. Companies can observe and interact with lead users online to identify frequently encountered questions and confusions as well as collective wisdom posted to share with similar others. Companies might experiment with trusting customers to propose solutions or innovations to challenges or growth opportunities they seek.
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