by Justin Wheeler, VP & General Manager at uSamp
Whether you call it the Social Web, Web 3.0, Semantic Web or any other trying-to-sound-intellectual label, the internet today is built, ranked and charged by opinions. Consumers have been empowered as never before to express what they think about anything and everything, from products to articles to videos. We even have the ability to give our opinions on the opinions of others.
Virtually every element on the internet today incorporates some mechanism for users to provide feedback: On Facebook, you can “Like” something. From Hulu to Netflix, users can select a number of stars to add a little more context – a ranking - to the opinion. And millions of us now relish the opportunity to rate restaurants or stores on Yelp, products on Amazon and videos on YouTube. For users, expressing their opinion has become not just a normal part of surfing the web, but is an expected part of browsing, shopping and engaging online.
Opinions now represent the single most valuable commodity that users bring to the internet, even more than actual dollars in most cases. They drive everything from the ranking of search results on Google, browsing and purchase behavior on Amazon, to selecting your closest friends on Facebook. Website and application developers have spent millions of man hours building algorithms that try to accurately measure opinions and user intent by monitoring user behavior and making logical assumptions about what users want.
As opinions increase, so too does the data set which business owners, website developers and product teams leverage in order to build demand-based products and services. However, the challenge for most businesses is that gathering user opinions in a way that is measurable and actionable can be difficult–and is almost always done after the fact.
Just recently, the voice of the consumer, magnified through social networks, turned the tide at Netflix and Bank of America who had launched or were exploring pricing model changes and upcharges. The crowd voiced their opinion and the companies attempted to respond to that intelligence. But by the time they addressed the concerns of the lifeblood of their companies, they had already become victim to bad PR. Both Netflix and BofA had made the same mistake: they only sought customer intelligence after product decisions had been made and released.
If a user says they “like” or “don’t like” something, the questions that product managers and marketers invariably want to ask is “Why?” Why didn’t the user like it? What could be better? What alternate product or service elements would help improve their experience? While helpful as directional insight and for marketing purposes, a “thumbs-up” or 4 stars is only superficially useful in providing actionable intelligence to product and development teams, and gathering context-rich feedback from user reviews is a labor intensive and time consuming process.
This is where online surveys become massively valuable to businesses. While most user-opinion gathering mechanisms are an “after-the-fact” tool, online surveys help businesses direct the conversation before products, videos or ideas even launch. They save businesses time and money by enabling them to ask the right questions to their targeted consumers.
That’s why an online survey is a Social Media Tool. Surveys are nothing more than a conversation between two parties – a measurable, repeatable conversation that is controlled by the business owner. Here at uSamp™, we refer to our survey authoring platform, Instant.ly™, as an Interview Engine.
What we’ve enabled is conversations on-demand with new, targeted consumers. Our interview engine allows users to select an audience of consumers they want to talk to, generate a conversation to ask the questions they want answered, and engage the audience at the click of a button to answer those questions. In minutes, the speed of social media, a business, product manager or researcher can engage any number of target consumers, get their questions answered and browse and segment the answers in real time. Want 300 responses to a set of 15 questions from your target consumer in under 5 minutes–with quantifiable results? Done – and we are just getting started.
The Social Web is about empowered users expressing opinions, direct access to the voice of the customer, real-time interaction and direct engagement. Instant.ly delivers on-demand access to consumers and engages them for scripted conversations in real-time. It represents a new breed of social engagement and market intelligence platforms that fits squarely into the social media toolkit.
VP & General Manager at uSamp, Justin Wheeler believes that the web is fueled by opinions. Wheeler, whose peers describe him as equal parts ‘brilliance and wit’, is fueled by game-changing innovation. Priding himself on developing platforms that empower users, Wheeler has 12 years experience with building, launching and managing online business services platforms. Wheeler’s MR drive peaked in the late-90s at paid-search marketing platform, GoTo.com, and followed by tech-shaking stints at Overture, Yahoo! and Spot Runner before Instant.ly would stroke his adventurous ego. The industry-rattling platform that empowers anyone to conduct self-directed, primary research, and enables businesses to turn social dialogue into quantifiable, constructive information is a natural fit for Wheeler. It comes as no surprise that the SaaS dev channels Teddy Roosevelt’s outdoorsman-side hunting big-game from horseback, spear-fishing and rockclimbing. He is not afraid to scale, and will stop at nothing to capture market share and drive companies to turn a profit.