Social networks play a valuable role throughout the life cycle of a product or service. Internet pioneer Larry Weber (2010) identifies how these roles change as a product moves from development to market introduction to widespread adoption:
Development Phase: You can use blogs, wikis, communities, or a combination of the three to solicit feedback about product characteristics.
Introduction Phase: Incorporating digital channels into a product or service release allows you to reach key prospects quickly, and at a reasonable cost. You can use podcasts or webinars to engage and educate potential customers about the benefits and applications of a new product. Communities can serve as reference networks: when someone influential “likes” a new product, other members will begin downloading the free trial and requesting further information within minutes.
Maintenance Phase: Once your product has been sold, you can use social networks to solve problems and provide customer service support, in addition to creating ongoing word of mouth publicity for your product.
In summary, social networks allow you to engage and influence prospects and customers, while also building strong relationships over time.