Market research has gone social. In the past, marketers relied heavily on focus groups and surveys. Why was this somewhat of an inefficient method of obtaining information? People lie. Not in a conscious or vengeful way, of course, but what people say that they do and what they actually do are often very different. In this digital era, there is no better way to do market research than to watch and listen to consumers’ activities online. The old idiom that actions speak louder than words is certainly true here.
1. Track the trends. According to Nielsen State of the Media: The Social Media Report (Q3 2011), consumers spend one out of every five minutes that they are online on social networks and blogs. That means that 60 percent of people learn about your brand through social media when researching a product via three or more digital means. Most social media platforms offer ways to analyze trends and conduct market research. For example, on Twitter, you can search hashtags related to your service or product, and even set up notifications when customers or competitors use those terms to see what they are talking about and what’s important to them. Another example: Facebook provides Page Insights to give you metrics to understand what’s working for your Page and what’s not; what people are interested in and what they aren’t. Virtually all platforms have free tools to help gather information.
2. Research in real time. Where traditional surveys or study groups could take weeks if not months to plan and implement, social media provides a way to conduct research in minutes or hours … without spending a ton of money! It’s easier to keep up with the ever-changing trends with social media without the risk of gaining outdated information after a lengthy study that takes a while to execute and then analyze. You can discover valuable insights by tapping into real-time conversations — either joining in with your audience as an equal or by simply observing. Next, analyze what customers are saying about your brand and industry to learn what they value about it, what they don’t and what they need.
3. Tweak your message. Once you’ve done your research, incorporate your findings into your marketing plan to improve the effectiveness of these efforts. You’ve just learned how your audience speaks about your brand and category as well, so use those key phrases to hone your brand positioning and voice. Being able to speak to your followers on their level is beneficial for building brand loyalty.
4. Build a following. There is a huge opportunity with social media to access thousands (if not millions!) of potential customers and to do double-duty by conducting market research and building your brand at the same time. One tactic that takes little effort is to create a contest and giveaway to increase interest in your company, and capture information and attitudes from your audience. Share your contests with social media influencers in your industry to get the word out and increase exposure.
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