It is no secret that social media has forever changed the ways that businesses and the public interact. Though businesses have realized the marketing and networking potential of social media, many overlook another potential benefit of these fast-paced platforms. When it comes to conducting market research, social networking offers a mix of affordability, easy access and transparency that make it ideal for businesses of any size or budget.
The Basics of Market Research Using Social Media
Market research covers a broad spectrum of topics and issues. With traditional market research methods, after deciding upon
questions and criteria, you would form a focus group or find participants for a survey or other format. Social media is similar in this regard. After formulating questions and theories, you must find groups to observe or question. However, with social media, your options are virtually endless. With millions of users logging on to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites, finding your ideal demographic is as simple as a few quick searches and filters.
Much like traditional polling and marketing, specific platforms will work best for particular users. Though each platform will include a wide variety of demographics, suggestions include:
- Facebook: As one of the largest social media platforms, Facebook is great for finding a variety of demographics.
- Twitter: Popular with businesses and tech-savvy users, Twitter’s rapid micro post format makes it great for collecting information quickly but can be difficult to use for in-depth studies.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great choice for B2B businesses or those researching professional industries. It is also a good source for finding trends analysis and recent studies by other businesses.
- Google+: Though this social network is relatively small, it is growing quickly. With support for Hashtags, communities and other advanced features, it will continue to improve its market research potential as it matures.
Benefits of Using Social Media for Market Research
There is an abundance of reasons why social media is ideal for market research. These are five major benefits:
1. Variety and Scope: Millions of messages, posts and interactions occur on social media networks each day. This means that it is easy to find information about a particular market, business or demographic. Simply use the built-in search tools or a premium client, such as HootSuite, and start researching.
2. Low Cost: Unlike focus groups or ethnographic research, it is possible to conduct market research using social media without the help of a professional. Most major social networks are free to join and use as well. This means that your only investment is time and effort. With proper planning, social media market research offers outstanding ROI.
3. Uncovering Hidden Trends: Most interaction related to market research on social media is participant driven. Instead of determining questions and polling participants, you are able to observe conversations as they occur. This can lead to the discovery of trends and information that might otherwise go undiscovered.
4. No Pressure Communication: One of the biggest obstacles faced by businesses conducting market research is eliminating bias. In formal settings, participants might be prone to tell you what they think that you want to hear. Social media’s casual etiquette allows you to learn how markets speak about various aspects of a product or service. This is great for learning how to adjust your company voice or connect with customers.
5. Quick Turn Around: Digging into the wealth of information on social media is as simple as performing a search. Advanced APIs and other tools allow automatic gathering and sorting of information as well. This makes is possible to conduct research quickly and efficiently. This reduces the chance of data becoming obsolete before research is completed.
Planning Your Social Media Market Research
Depending on your market, the process might vary slightly. However, these best practices offer great results for most businesses:
1. Identify Your Market Personas
2. Determine Questions and Concerns
3. Assign Questions to the Best Platforms
4. Conduct Research
5. Analyze Your Results
By following these steps, you can add a level of accountability to your research efforts, reduce time investment and improve the quality of your results.
Social media platforms offer an endless bounty of information for businesses looking for market trends or way to improve operations. From small local businesses to online startups, social media based market research offers outstanding benefits. When it comes to business tools, the accessibility and low cost of social media make it an essential part of any business’ toolkit.
Willie Pena is a freelance writer, video producer, visual artist, and music producer. He prefers the Oxford comma and enjoys writing about qualitative research. In addition to writing for firms such as IBM, Colgate, Transunion, Webroot and a multitude of private clients and websites. Connect with him on Google+.