What's the Latest Development?

Maybe Aaron Schwartz, creator of the watch company Modify, never thought of selling his fashionably designed yet modestly priced timepieces in surf shops. But through Facebook, his customers told him that's exactly where they wanted to buy his product. Schwartz is not the only one using Facebook to encourage customer feedback but he took the exercise a step further. He brought his customers together into virtual focus groups designed to generate targeted feedback about Modify's newest designs.

What's the Big Idea?

New online services are offering to turn your Facebook followers into members of a more intimate and structured virtual community that acts like a focus group, giving you customer-generated suggestions for improvement. Typically called 'labs', each group session will begin with a challenge. In Schwartz's case, one challenge was to help his business design a new watch. An additional bonus of turning ordinary Facebook followers into focus groups is that it can provide a 'marketing bonanza'.