March 13, 2013

How to use social media for market research

Written By Martin Sandhu
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There is very little that’s more important to retailers than market research, it shapes the products sold, their pricing and often how they’re sold. And whilst social media is great for brand engagement and sales, it’s also really useful for market research too.

In reality social media is now rarely driven by the marketing department, it’s driven by the consumers. They are interacting with, discussing and dissecting your brand and industry whether you join in or not. Many larger retailers have opted to dedicate an entirely different profile to deal with customer services queries for fear of ‘clogging’ their sales messages with responses, but let’s be honest, how likely is it that consumers will find that before they find your ‘main’ profile?

The level of ‘noise’ from consumers shouldn’t be seen as a negative, it should be an embraced as an opportunity. When else do you get the chance to hear such candid opinions about your products, your customer service, your competitors and your industry? By tapping in to these interactions brands can find new ways to carry out market research.

Here’s four easy ways to get started:

Ask questions
It’s that simple, just like you’d send a customer survey via an e-shot, use social media instead. OK, so perhaps it’s not that simple…there are a few things to consider, try not to bombard fans, one or two relevant questions a week is plenty. But people are more likely to write a quick comment on a post or respond to a Tweet than they are to fill out a four page survey. You’ll see responses instantly and customers who see other peoples views and opinions are more likely to give you feedback too.

Monitor feedback
If you have multiple people administering social media accounts it can be difficult, but if there is a theme in the feedback spotting it is essential. Often if customers have negative things to say they won’t actually ‘mention’ or ‘tag’ you in their comments, so ensuring that social monitoring is correctly set-up is imperative, not only from a market research point of view but also from a customer service one.

Strategically search for insights
Just because they’re not talking directky to your company doesn’t mean their insights and opinions aren’t useful. If you’re looking for a gap in the market, which you are perfectly placed to fill or a competitor who’s being scored poorly in a certain area then strategic and in-depth social media monitoring can hold the key.

Analyse engagement
Monitor which updates get the most response, be it likes, comments, pins or Retweets. This is perhaps the simplest market research strategy to implement and one of the strongest. With such a key focus on engagement due to Facebook’s Edgerank and recent news of older tweets surfacing in search results, it should be a key driver for strategy. Not only that, but it will give you audience insights too, there maybe common themes which resonate more than others or certain types of posts which are more popular.