To put the social media approach into practice, any platform that allows text, image and video is suitable. The social media platform used for this purpose should be some of the same used for marketing purposes, where customers are already engaged with the brand. Furthermore, it is necessary to train the social media team in listening (showing empathy) and qualitative research skills. It is actually highly recommended to integrate qualitative research and innovation team members into the social media marketing team regularly to exchange ideas and provide practical training. There are three main approaches to make that work:

Goal-oriented open call to action. Whenever there are special needs that require substantial participation (more than would be expected from the ongoing conversations), it may be convenient to organize a call to action in the shape of a contest, with rewards for the best contributors. To avoid providing contributors’ insights to the competitors, it is recommendable that participants send their insights in a way that is not visible to anybody else.

Goal-oriented short-listed call to action. It is convenient to control the followers whose opinion and ideas are more thoughtful and creative in order to create a short list of participants for some open innovation events where the issue is more confidential (i.e. should not be viewed by competitors). When there are special needs which are considered confidential or which require a few but well elaborated insights, a short-listed call to action may be the best solution.

Focus group. This is a method frequently used for qualitative research consisting of a group discussion led by a professional with a sample of participants belonging to a specific type of customer segment or stakeholder group. This is to make them talk about critical issues and obtain qualitative insights to understand their way of thinking. Focus groups can also be carried out on social media platforms, as long as the group is private. The focus group discussions should be recorded.

Ongoing conversation. This consists of taking advantage of the ongoing conversations about the product or the brand to gain further insight for innovation purposes. It is interesting to introduce at least two members of the social media team (as anonymous customers) playing different customer roles, to the conversation – e.g. the satisfied & positive and the critical – to invigorate the conversation and encourage others to participate in the discussion.

For the “Ongoing conversation” it is convenient to define protocols for dealing with the discussion participants, setting a sequential order for the issues to deal with: “Following up queries”, asking about “kinds of uses”, “attribute assessment”, and asking for ideas.

This article is from the White Paper “Envisioning Open Innovation in Destinations”, available for download in

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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