“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
This quote has been commonly attributed to Henry Ford, but he never really said it. Regardless, this brings to light a handicap of social media.
Businesses left and right are following the public into the realm of social media hoping to hit the mother lode. One of the aims of businesses in being present in social media is to get immediate feedback and a more personal interaction with their market. However, should they believe all the signals they get from these platforms?
Moz describes this as "treating all customer input as gospel", which could be a recipe for disaster. If indeed, people were given faster horses, instead of the automobile, everyone would have ended up the loser. One burger joint tried appealing to its customers with the addition of fried chicken in its menu, only to lose a lot in ROI since it wasn't its specialty.
Social media has helped people open up about their thoughts and opinions. Businesses are expected to lend an ear but not to take these as “gospel”. Patrick Vlaskovits, co-author of The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development, says an entrepreneur must understand his or her customers using empirical, observational, and anecdotal methods; and not just chatter on social media.