Marketing research is one of the best ways to bolster your business and grow your market. Traditional market research methods, such as focus groups or observation studies, require a significant investment of both time and money. By utilizing newer methods, such as social media research, you can reduce your investment, obtain quick results and expand your market at the same time. Here are six best practices for using social media for marketing research.
1. Create a Plan
When it comes to social media, it is easy to lose track of your goals. With updates occurring by the second and near-endless options to pursue, you can drive up the time investment of your social media research quickly. To maximize your returns, create a list of questions and assign them to specific social media networks. Deciding in advance whether you plan to engage to answer questions or strictly observe can help to optimize your plan further. Once you have the blueprints for your research, executing is simple.
2. Define Your Target Group
Create a clear set of criteria that you are searching for within your media research. This could be your target market, competitors, peers or virtually any other group. Once you have determined your group, research the social media platforms that your target group prefers. While social media is extremely popular, many people only use a few of the networks regularly. By defining your group and choosing platforms accordingly, you are maximizing the potential to collect information and engage your audience.
3. Listen as Well as Engage
While there will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions and comment on conversations, there is much to be gained from simply monitoring trending topics, conversations and interactions. Listening allows you to remove any chance of bias because speakers know that you are there. This means that you are more likely to obtain candid, honest information.
Of course, talking and interacting plays a large role as well. Asking directed questions and obtaining opinions is fast and furious on many social media platforms. Depending on your chosen platform, consider creating a hashtag, group or page for your discussions to help keep things flowing and orderly. The easier that it is for others to join your conversation, the better the chances are of increased engagement and research potential.
4. Utilize Lists and Search Features to Simplify the Process
Most popular social media platforms include search, tagging and tracking features. Twitter lists and Google+ Circles are great examples. By compiling potential targets into lists, you can check in on conversations, posts and shares with a few clicks instead of monitoring profiles and streams individually.
5. Consider Third Party Tools to Help Add Features to Your Research
Tools exist for nearly every major social media platform available. Many third-party tools provide outstanding platforms for social media research. Even better, many are free and capable of increasing the insights that you gain significantly. A few of the most popular tools include:
- HootSuite, TweetDeck and Seesmic: By consolidating multiple social media accounts into one interface, these tools make it possible to sort and make sense of the endless streams of information on social media.
- Buffer and SocialOomph: These tools offer scheduling and automation tools to help you streamline your efforts or cover targets in other time zones or locales.
- TweetStats, Topsy, Twistori, Tweriod and TwitterMap: These tools offer interesting statistics and analytic options for Twitter.
- Topsy and SocialStatistics: These tools offer comprehensive tracking and ranking of Google+ and Twitter trends, pages, profiles, keywords, posts and more.
6. Be Professional and Consistent
When conducting market research on business profiles, remember that your actions will directly reflect upon your business. No amount of information is worth a tarnished reputation or social media scandal. Be professional and upfront about your questions, comments and interactions.
Even if you are not conducting research with your business accounts, professionalism and consistency are important. You never know when someone might discover your cleverly disguised profile. Social media users are also quick to find and point out any inconsistencies in how you conduct yourself online.
Social media offers an endless source of marketing research information. However, without a detailed plan and a few simple tools, social media research might cost your business more than you might gain. These six best practices will ensure that your social media research offers the most benefits possible while minimizing the work required to obtain results.
This post was a collaboration between Ray Nelson and Willie Pena.