Test markets are part of launching a new product, yet test marketing can be difficult and costly. However a side effect of social media is the ability to prototype and to use the research & development process to engage the consumer community.
One of the huge upsides to a company like Kickstarter is the ability to forward sell and in the process receive feedback on product design. Amazing because what is research and development if it isn't about understanding and working with the consumer base?
Social media can often be seen as a pure marketing tool but the social element is reaching beyond the sales process. We need to start extending our thinking past marketing.....why can't social be part of the business DNA as a whole?
Social production with the consumer printing it out, social funding like Kickstarter, social resourcing as a network of skills. The social web is not just about conversations about product, it gives the consumer the chance to come inside the walls of the business. It gives the business the chance to really develop customer relationship management and merge supplier and consumer supply chains.
If I was to offer you a 'free' way of accessing research and resources wouldn't you want to take it?