Social media is here to stay. With all of us clinging to it for our socializing needs, and businesses enthralled with its promotional power, this unstoppable force, with its ability to make content viral, is carving a strong place for itself a deep rooted niche in the content marketing space.
While social medias ability to make content and brands viral is well known, there is also a challenging side. Given the ease with which opinion can be voiced on social media, customers are more vocal and open about their brand experiences. A less-than-satisfactory experience or a negative feedback can quickly go viral, and destroy brands and their reputation. Numerous posts on social media by women buyers about a fitness wearable brand led the manufacturer to introduce thinner straps and some features were dropped for ease of use on small screen size. Pokmon Go the game which went viral, is another recent example. Launched with much fanfare, the game received tremendous response in the first few weeks of launch. But soon, it received criticism for encouraging trespassing and even causing accidents. Security concerns from individuals and governments have also resulted in legal issues for the games developers.
These two instances point in one direction the need for businesses to proactively focus on security and reliability, in addition to innovation and high quality. To stay in the race, businesses must not only adapt to changing technology trends, but also catch up with evolving customer behavior, which has zero tolerance for application errors, compromised security, substandard performance or inconsistent behavior across mobile and web.
In this world of the socially connected customer, the Quality Assurance (QA) function has emerged as an important discipline. Today, QAs role does not end at successful product launch. In fact, it begins afresh.
Customer conversations on social media must be continuously monitored and responded to. This proactive listening to the voice of customer can help address customer issues in the development stage itself. Negative feedback must be addressed with care and caution before it plays havoc and becomes a brand reputation destroyer on social media. However, mere deployment of these tools is not the only solution, because for businesses, its not just about using social media, its about becoming a responsive social business.
Here are three thumb rules for CIOs and CMOs alike that can facilitate this transformation:
- Make QA & Testing everybodys job: Testing is not a silo job anymore. Its a collaborative effort by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), independent users from other project teams, support functions, and non-IT teams. Their inputs, points of view, problem statements, satisfaction quotient, and expectations must also be captured. Collectively, these inputs can be a big differentiator in final product outcome.
- Conduct thorough market research: Statistical data analytics and sentiment analysis reports of similar products and/or applications can provide quantifiable insights on customer behavior and competitors past performance. Such analytics must be done at the scenario design stage itself, or at least, addressed in the random testing phase.
- Perform non-functional testing: Non-functional testing should not be treated as an optional activity. By addressing non-functional attributes such as performance, security, stability, usability, and compatibility, QA practitioners can ensure that the end-user expectations are met.
The Real World of Social Media Analytics
Social media analytics and listening is just the start of a revolution. I am closely watching two trends amongst many. The first is Gamification the use of game mechanics to drive marketing behavior. And the second is Augmented Reality the use of computing to deliver a virtual view of a brands real world. With Gamification and Augmented Reality, social media applications are expected to evolve, and will become the de-facto choice for connecting with customers and instantly capturing ever evolving customer requirements and sentiment.
In response, the QA role too, will need to shape up extend much beyond mere test case execution from a quality watchdog to a social media listener and social sentiment analyzer. It will be interesting to watch this evolution of both businesses and the QA function.