With the explosion of social media tools, society has moved from "mass media" exposure to "masses of media" exposure. It means that ideas are not shared by the masses, but by a narrow set of "friends" who think like "I" do. The result is messages and markets are fractionalized and niches are now the target for promoting one's product, service, or idea. A VERY DIFFERENT MINDSET is required. Now, the audience is creating the messages, determining what is good or bad, desirable, or boring. Marketers now are LISTENERS and followers rather than leading the discussion about their products. Consumers are not just voting with their dollars or their feet, but they are voting with their words - their comments and suggestions - their praise and their outrage - their videos and their tweets.
The keynote speaker at the 2010 Symposium of The Food Industry Center confirmed that his company uses social media to invite people to get involved, inspire people to share their comments, and include people by listening to their opinions. Instead of keeping a new product "secret" until it was ready to hit the shelves, they share it during the development stage to get rapid feedback. It is like having a focus group of thousands - online - that someone else runs. Bloggers who write about their products need - by contract - to disclose they have received products from this company, but they are free to say anything they like - and they do. Negative feedback is valuable and much less expensive than going to a full product launch only to learn too late about its potential failure.