How to Use Social Media for Marketing Research

Social media has had a massive impact on marketing and the way that consumers view businesses. While many businesses are taking part in social media marketing, many fail to see the market research potential that the platform offers as well. These tips and tricks offer simple, easy to implement ways to turn social media into a powerful marketing research tool.

Forming your Marketing Research Plan

Before you can begin to sift through your various social media platforms for information, you must first form a research plan. With the sheer amount of information that is constantly streaming across many of the most popular social media services, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, having a plan will help to keep your research focused and allow you to organize and act on the information that you obtain.

Common research plan steps include:

1. Set Your Goals: One of the keys to successful marketing research is focus. By determining exactly what you wish to obtain from your research, you can track your progress and returns easily. Be as specific as possible when setting goals for optimal results.

2. Choose Your Research Sources: Social media platforms vary in appearance, audience, tone and other factors. Choosing a platform that aligns with your goals can help to speed up the process and improve the quality of your findings. For example, B2B businesses might consider LinkedIn or Twitter as these platforms offer access to a wide range of other businesses and professionals.

3. Conduct Your Research: With goals and a target platform in mind, it is time to start researching. There is a wide variety of ways to conduct marketing research using social media. Popular methods and tips for optimizing your existing efforts will be discussed in a moment.

4. Analyze Your Results and Start Again: With the rapid pace of many social media platforms, you can accurately track trends, opinions and topics as they change. Depending on your market, these changes could occur daily or slowly occur over the course of months. Because of this, market research through social media is often an on-going process.

Using Social Media to Track Trends

One of the easiest forms of market research to conduct using social media is trends tracking and analysis. Most major platforms offer multiple ways to search recent posts for key terms or trends. An example of this is Twitter's hashtag searches. By choosing terms related to your questions or market, you gain instant access to a near-constant stream of information.

Observe or Engage for Varied Responses

One of the major benefits of social media research is that you can choose your level of involvement. Passive collection and observation offer outstanding ways to obtain information without having to worry about how your brand or business might influence the speaker's opinion. On the opposite side, active engagement with others on social media can lead to insightful findings and expose a side of your market that you might not see normally. By mixing both methods, you can create a well-rounded set of data for analysis.

Build a Network of Competitors

The public nature of social media has changed business accessibility forever. While this offers a number of marketing benefits, you can also use it to your advantage for research purposes. Locate and follow your competitors' social media feeds for a first-hand look at their marketing methods, brand, strategies and products or services. This can help you to find additional ways to strengthen your brand or reveal new opportunities for your business.

Using Social Media to Improve Communications

Terms such as value, quality and innovation are different from business to business. Likewise, your customer base is likely to have a differing definition from your business as well. Social media offers an accessible, easy to use way to learn about what your customers or clients think of products and services, as well as revealing their common complaints, issues or concerns. By creating a customer-centric approach to your marketing through social media research, you can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

Tools to Help Your Social Media Research

  • TweetDeck: This free program from Twitter offers a consolidated interface from which to conduct research on both Twitter and Facebook. It allows for hashtag tracking, user searches and real-time notifications.

  • Hashtracking: As a premium service, Hashtracking provides comprehensive analytics and trends on up to 40 Twitter hashtags for a flat monthly fee. It includes numerous reports and sharing options to help manage your data.

  • Tweriod: Social media research is all about finding your audience and compiling information. If your business has an existing Twitter account, Tweriod will let you know the times when your followers are most active for increased research productivity.

Social media is becoming a popular market research tool quickly due to its low cost and ease of use. These tips and tricks will help you to harness the power of social media for your marketing benefit.

Ray Nelson is a marketing writer who specializes in writing about marketing geared towards women among other topics like market research and social media marketing.  

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Liked the point about choosing the right source of data. It's very much vital in these age of 'so-called' expert advice and data interpretations. Great post Jure!


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