While there have been several major innovations in the market research world over the last decade — and many more are emerging, like facial expression recognition technology and smartphone/tablet-driven ethnography — arguably no development since the web and email has had a greater impact than social media.
However, this does not necessarily mean that all businesses — or market research consultants and agencies on their behalf — that are attempting to obtain and exploit social media market research are enjoying success. Like any other investment, some are reaping rewards, while others are struggling to achieve ROI and justify the expense and effort.
At Communications For Research, we have been providing clients nationwide with social media market research for several years. Over this time, we have seen first-hand what works — and learned from peers, experts and analysts about what doesn’t. Mindful of the fact that every client project is unique, here are 5 best practices that make (or by their absence, break) success:
Understand how social media market research works.
Because social media is inherently user-friendly and informal, there is a tendency — or better states, a strong temptation — to view it as a market research magic wand. In other words: all that businesses needs to do is throw out a virtual net, wait a little while, and haul in a wealth of qualitative data.
The reality, of course, is quite different! Just like any other data gathering approach, social media market research must be part of a plan that adjusts to the unique nature of this channel (e.g. the fact that respondents are typically on-the-go, using devices rather than desktops, are vulnerable to being distracted by an incoming text/tweet/chat/etc. at any moment, and so on).
Identifying these factors, integrating them into the plan, and making adjustments accordingly is critical to ensure that social media market research is valuable and actionable, and not just “data for the sake of data.”
Understand how social media market research fits into the overall mix.
One of the most important and compelling advantages of social media market research vs. some other qualitative data gathering methods (e.g. focus groups, in-depth interviews, etc.) is that it is significantly less costly.
However, this relative — and certainly attractive — affordability persuades some businesses to allocate most or all of their budget into social media market research. This is almost always a mistake.
Why? Because social media market research can only tell one part of the marketplace story. Without other methods and approaches in the mix (which can also be cost effective and technology-led, like email surveys, online focus groups, and so on), businesses won’t get the reliable and actionable intelligence they need.
Define and Target
“Social media” is a catch-all term that covers a variety of platforms. Different customer groups and influencers congregate in various spaces. For social media market research to achieve the shortest path to value, it must be targeted to the right pool of potential respondents, at the right time, through the right channel, and using the right communication strategy.
Exploit Social Media Listening
One of the most valuable sources of marketplace intelligence is actively listening on social media, which means taking a step back and allowing customers to organically communicate and follow emergent activity streams.
Of course, asking direct questions is fine — and frankly, it’s a necessary part of social media market research. But there should also be a key listening component as well, since the insights that surface when customers/influencers drive the conversation can be especially candid and valuable.
As mentioned, one of social media’s defining features is its user-friendliness. Sending out a post or a tweet takes mere seconds, and the only training that most people need is “turn on computer, log into account, proceed.”
Paradoxically however, this very easy-of-use can be detrimental, because it convinces many businesses to take the DIY approach; especially since there are countless tools available that promise to make social media market research “simple and successful.” In truth, this is rarely the case, as is evidenced by the massive churn rates that these tool vendors experience (i.e. businesses that enthusiastically sign-up end up leaving in droves at the first possible opportunity because they are not getting results or ROI).
The moral to this story is the same now as it has been in the past, and will be in the future: working with a proven market research partner is the smartest, safest and most strategic approach possible.
To learn more, contact the Communications For Research team today to speak with our co-CEO Colson Steber. During your chat, he will listen to your business goals and help you decide whether social media market research should be a part of your plans. With CFR’s 20+ years of experience in market research, we can give you guidance, quotes and timelines for your market research project. What are you waiting for?
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