By Hugh Beaulac
Social media isn’t a perfect source of market research: It’s not a representative sample and, for small businesses, it’s simply too small of a sample.
But for large organizations, it’s still a critical one. Why? Because it includes your most passionate fans.
It’s also a rare source of candid consumer opinion: 80% of social media posts are about ourselves, and those opinions and beliefs—expressed individually and within a community—are not interrupted or biased by participation in a formal study or company-run focus group.
Further, consumers crave communication with brands on social media:
- 95% of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are likely to follow a brand through social media channels.
- Buyers report spending 20–40% more money on brands that have interacted with them on social media.
- 71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend the brand to friends and family.
Not all social media market research comes from active participation. When GE Life Sciences wanted to learn how customers discussed protein purification, they analyzed 500,000 protein-related comments on social media. The data improved content creation, tailored website vocabulary to the voice of the customer, and honed their search strategy.
To conduct similar market research successfully on social media, you need to know:
- What social media is good (and bad) at assessing;
- Which social platforms are best for research;
- How to encourage an informative and engaging conversation.
What is social media good (and bad) at assessing?
Social media is a useful market research tool to:
- Get immediate feedback on customers’ experiences and beliefs.
- Ask consumers about potential product improvements.
Other methods are more useful if you want to:
- Get in-depth feedback.
- Target a specific audience within or outside your social media following.
A few benefits—and pitfalls—stand out:
You can gather data faster. Almost half of social media users access different platforms on a daily basis:
That means that companies can get fresh insights quickly. One case study revealed that social media was three times as efficient compared to tracking customer feedback via email.
You can save on research costs. Most in-app social media features (e.g. polls, emoji sliders) collect market research data without the costs associated with research panels (with the aforementioned caveat that your audience isn’t a representative sample).
But it’s not for everyone. If your social accounts don’t have hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of followers, don’t expect social media to be a viable source of market research.
If you generate 20 responses to a poll, that quantitative feedback is equally likely to mislead you as to guide you in the right direction. You’re better off focusing on qualitative methods that will help you develop rich customer personas with a small number of responses.
There is, however, one opportunity for small businesses: social listening on competing brands. If you want to understand the frustrations or desires of your target audience, use passive social media market research techniques, like those detailed below, to get access to some of the same social media research larger competitors enjoy.
Also, beware …read more
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