‘Social Technologies have become a full fixture of modern life – in private, public and commercial spheres’ McKinsey Global Institute (MGI): The Social economy, page 15. Social platforms have become an anchor for which modern society grounds itself, as it is used constantly on a day-to-day basis. However, exploiting social technology in a business sense has proven difficult for various companies, as it can be a rather precarious tactic to employ.
In regards to this, MGI has gone through the trouble to categorize the potential benefits into five organisational functions of social technology use, in the commercial realm.
- Product Development
- Operations and Distribution
- Marketing and Sales
- Customer Service
- Enterprise-Wide Levers
However, in this post I will be concentrating on the Product Development aspect, whilst delving slightly into marketing and sales. This entails co-creation with potential users through social media, also known as ‘crowdsourcing’, as it permits the public to have valuable input into the overall design process. Furthermore, I will be discussing how one company exploits social commerce. Thus, as a result the company that will be under the microscope here will be; Kickstarter.
Kickstarter originated as a website that allowed creators to post big, or small, projects and allow potential consumers to support it and even provide potential feedback through alpha testing. As a result, since it’s launch in 2009, Kickstarter has hosted more than 90,000 projects with 9.2 million people having pledged over $1.9 billion.
Yet, a creator may not claim any donations/support unless, at the very least, the full goal has been reached. Looking at their use of social technology allows us to catch a glimpse at how they bring creator and customer together to see how effective each project is.
Product Development & Social Commerce
Kickstarter employ social technology within product development and social commerce in a few different approaches. Primarily, they use various social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and diverse blogging sites) to advertise separate kickstarters, provide communication between creator and consumer, whilst exploiting social commerce in such a way that if a user were to log-in with their Facebook account then their friends may see what products they have backed. Hence, it provides, in an online fashion, the sense of supporting matters with friends.
However, Kickstarter are essentially just a host and not necessarily developers. Yet, they have managed ‘crowdsourcing’ activities for independent developers since their conception and a great example of this, is the game Blackwake. In this case, Kickstarter provided the means for the small two man development team to raise awareness for their product and receive appropriate feedback through various social media, such as; YouTube, Facebook & Twitter. Furthermore, the reputation raised through these means allowed the game to be available on the Steam: Greenlight community for pre-alpha and beta testing.
Through Kickstarter hosting these activities and providing ample awareness of the game, Blakcwake reached it’s $10,000 goal with a current pledge of over $30,000, with 22 days remaining.
Despite this success, according to Kickstarter, only 44% of projects actually reach their funding goals.
Overall, it is my solemn belief that social technologies can only provide half of the answer for companies struggling to find their ground. The other 50% arises from how companies actually interact with and exploit social platforms to realistically become successful in an economy that is very steadily becoming very driven and ruled by social media, and all factors that come with it.