Something to Talk About: 3 Ways to Use Social Media for Market Research
Nothing sets tongues wagging quite like a social media scoop. From controversial hashtags to breaking news and strong opinions, social media is perfect for taking the current pulse of an entire subset of people: After all, 74 percent of Internet users also check in on social media.
It’s not perfect, however. The people who interact with brands on social media aren’t always an adequate or accurate sample. Online opinions often swing wildly from both sides of the spectrum, resulting in love it-or-hate-it responses. Still, used correctly, social media can offer a wealth of knowledge for those willing to take the time to gather and disseminate a huge amount of useful data. Here’s how.
Cheap and Fast Sampling
One reason brands love social media for data is that it’s cheap and fast. Everyone has access to the same audience, so it’s no big deal to shoot off a question and get a ton of answers back to help prove or frame a hypothesis. Compare that to a typical focus group or survey deployment, which can be significantly more expensive and time-consuming.
Keep in mind that social media opinions and samples aren’t always super-accurate. Still, it’s not like you can’t learn anything from impassioned Twitter users. By utilizing social media as a quick way to help you frame more expensive portions of market research, you can save time and dial into existing opinions before you ever really get started.
Treat social media as a focus group at scale. It’s impossible to bring every Facebook user into your office for a tête-à-tête, so social media can be the next best thing in terms of a large-scale survey. It’s not going to be a representative sample (remember, brand-interactions are usually from hardcore fans on someone with an axe to grind) but will still offer valuable insight.
Social media also gives you the opportunity to hear directly from a target market. You can go where the likeliest customers are already spending their time and sharing their opinions. Consider social media focus groups as a supplement to existing efforts, expanding reach and increasing scale.
What’s hot and what’s not? You’d only have to check trending topics to determine the zeitgeist of society. In the past, market researchers would have loved the opportunity of understanding broad consumer trends with the ease of clicking a hashtag.
Everyone is talking about something, whether discussing politics on Facebook, checking out fashion on Instagram, or participating in entertainment fandom on Twitter. Social media offers market researchers the opportunity to segment the audience and get into the collective mindset of subculture samples. With the right insights, it’s easy to pinpoint trends and general opinions.
Social media isn’t a perfect sample, and it’s definitely not the only thing market researchers should consider, but it’s definitely a tool of the trade. It comes down to knowing how to interpret data mined from social media channels—and then using that information to really give them something to talk about.