As noted by Business2Community.com, “understanding customers in their natural environments rather than asking them what they want, is exactly why social media listening is such an exciting opportunity for marketers today”.
However, for marketers to reap the full rewards of this transformative development, they need to know how social media plays a part in modern market research. Essentially, there are 3 key ways to leverage this approach to support product development, marketing campaigns, sales force strategies, and the list goes on:
Perform Content and Issue Research
Customers – both B2B and B2C – don’t buy products and services, even if on a basic level they think they do. Rather, they buy solutions to their problems; or more optimistically, they buy ways and means to achieve their aspirations.
Obviously, this insight is hardly new but what is new, is how businesses can tap into the power of social media to get a deeper sense of what’s going on in the minds and hearts of their customers. This valuable market research – which in some cases can be gleaned through elements like trending hashtags, number of shares/likes/upvotes, text analytics and other informal yet revealing gestures -- can then be leveraged to create content, refine communications (e.g. sales calls, emails, etc.), and even help innovate or drive new product development.
Learn and Speak The Customer's Language
At the same time, businesses can observe the language that their customers use to describe products, problems, businesses and so on. Then they can integrate these insights into their messaging. For example, a business may believe that customers are most interested in the quality of a solution. However, paying close attention to how they interact and engage on social media could reveal that convenience, service, warranty, financing options, or other elements are just as (if not more) important.
Expand Beyond Traditional Markets
One of the biggest advantages of conducting modern market research through social media is the ease, speed and affordability of stepping outside traditional markets.
For example, a business that provides business VoIP phone systems may have “anecdotal evidence” – or maybe just a hunch – that its solutions would be appealing to non-profit organizations. However, launching a full-blown marketing/advertising campaign, or investing in products that may appeal to this target audience, is likely not financially justifiable. Social media-drive market research could be a practical way to reach into this market and get a stronger sense if, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there is “any there, there”. If so, then a deeper look and additional investments can follow.
A Word of Caution
There are plenty of reasons for businesses to be excited about the role that social media plays in modern market research. As the years unfold, this role and influence will only increase.
However, as valid and valuable as this approach is, social media is not a “magic wand” that replaces fundamentally sound, professional-grade market research. For example:
- Data hygiene remains a major obstacle – otherwise, it’s GIGO (garbage in, garbage out).
- Businesses need to know what, who, why, when and how to ask questions – because all of these variables influence the quality, integrity and reliability of the research.
- Benchmarking still has to be done the right way. Trends sometimes shift on social media in a matter of hours, and without the right benchmarks, businesses will be chasing customers down the proverbial rabbit hole and can easily end up drawing some misleading conclusions.
- It’s possible to run afoul of legal and compliance issues, such as capturing information from a minor, or using data without consent (even if it is not identifying or in no way adversely impacts a party). To make things even murkier – and as any e-discovery lawyer will agree – the law was never designed for social media, and is scrambling frenetically to catch up. That means businesses may find themselves criticized for crossing legal or compliance lines that they didn’t even know existed – because, technically, they might not yet!
If you are pursuing a social media integration for your market research strategy, Communications for Research can be a great resource for the primary market research you continue to do.
When you decide to take on social media as a market research tool, you should not lose your survey projects and you may need outside assistance to get it all done. CFR helps you get the reliable, actionable information and insights you need from the other research you are doing so that you can keep exploring.
To learn more, contact us today! We would be happy to provide you with accurate, concise, and complimentary feedback on your existing research plans. Plus we can give advice or create a quote for new research ideas that will bring value to your business.