using social media to detect defectsAs regular readers of this blog can testify, I’m not a fan of the usage of social media for advertising purposes.  It wastes what is a fantastic platform for engaging with customers and other stakeholders.  Rather than another channel to push out content, it can be used to co-create new products, or gain feedback on how your service can be improved, or engage customers in delivering support to one another.  All manner of approaches that utilise social media to make your business better.  This more enlightened approach to social media has an unlikely champion however, with the car industry showing some strong signs of using social media to make themselves better.

First we’ve had Volvo using social media to gain feedback from their customers on how the interior of cars should be designed.  Ford have been equally proactive, using social media to both attract and gain feedback from early adopters on vehicles before they’re launched to the public.

Researchers at Virginia Tech believe that social media can be used for another purpose that is key for all car companies, namely quality management.  We’ve seen over the past few years how industry leaders like Toyota have suffered from quality control issues, with thousands of cars being recalled after faults had been identified.  The research suggests using social media to help car companies both discover and classify vehicle defects.

“A lot of useful but hidden data on vehicle quality is embedded in social media that is largely untapped by auto manufacturers,” said Alan Abrahams, assistant professor of business information technology, who led the study together with Weiguo Fan, professor of accounting and information systems.
Abrahams and his team basically created a decision support system (DSS) that would scour discussion forums for owners of Honda, Toyota and Chevrolet vehicles.  They then programmed the DSS to discover vehicle defects based upon the social media posts across various brands.
“Vehicle quality management professionals would greatly benefit in terms of productivity by employing a vehicle defect discovery system like ours to sift defects from unrelated posts,” Abrahams said.
It’s an interesting approach and provides a clear path between social media activity and measurable business results.  Of course one could argue that it’s better to find these defects before they hit the market, but nevertheless social media does provide a means of discovering problems that may previously have remained unknown.
You can find out more about the research and the DSS here http://www.magazine.pamplin.vt.edu/fall12/index.html