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Using Social Media Reviews for Product Research and Development

By Tiffany Tran  •  September 28, 2016


Using Social Media Reviews for Product Research and Development

Posted by: Tiffany Tran on September 28, 2016

Most brands in the CPG industry spend a considerable amount of money on product research and development (R&D). In 2014, Apple spent 3% ($1.7B) of its annual earnings in R&D.

If you are a start-up or a small business, chances are, you are going to be spending way more than 3% of your annual earnings on R&D. In 2008, the ‘Business R&D and Innovation Survey’ revealed that small companies (5 to 24 employees) spent at least 50% more than small firms (less than 500 employees). The leading industries in R&D are not surprisingly pharmaceuticals, computer and electronics, and automotive.

The investment in R&D can be extremely expensive but is vital to any growing business.


But what if product research could be done for a fraction of the cost by just leveraging social media?

All customers, whether right or wrong, with you or against you, current or potential -- are all incredibly important to your research.

You could solicit feedback, hold a focus group or push email surveys online (still great methods of getting feedback), but we aren’t going to be talking about any of those options today.

Today, it is going to be all about analyzing reviews, an alternative option that doesn’t get talked about much and often gets overlooked in the research.

If you spend enough time on just one product and read through the verbiage, you can learn so much about customers and how they feel or think about a product.

Sites like Amazon, Walmart, Target, Yelp, ConsumerAffairs, or other big retail seller sites are great places to start digging for consumer reviews.

Whether you are on a quest to find inspiration, validate, or improve an old concept, here are 4 questions you should ask yourself when digging into reviews. (Tip: I'd suggest starting an excel sheet or something comparable to keep you organized.)

What do people love about this product?


Figure out the key features people really like about a product and make a list of it all. Which attributes standout the most and why do they love these key features? This will help you understand the key strengths of a product without fishing for it.

What are some of the biggest pain points about the product?


While it is great to know what people love about a product, knowing what people dislike about a product is even better. You can leverage the negative aspects of a product to revamp a feature, tweak the product, or even to create something completely new.

How are people using the product or service?

amazon-review-echo.pngIs the product being used the way you had intended it to be used? If not, what are the other ways people are using it? If you can figure out why as well, bonus points. You may be surprised on what you could uncover. Possibly a brand or line extension opportunity?

Are there other brands being associated with this product?


Learn and study brand associations. Think of this as vetting out the known and unknown competitors. A great way of figuring out your strengths and weaknesses is by recognizing the problems your competitors are or aren’t solving.


The process of sifting through hundreds or thousands of reviews can be time consuming and tedious but rewarding when you do find those hidden insights.

What are some other questions you would ask? Share them in the comments section below.

Topics: social media, social media research, product research


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