Using Social Media for Marketing Research
Gone are the days of formal studies, company-run research groups, and in-depth interviews. (Well, not really. These things still exist and still have value.) But as life as we know it becomes ever-increasingly digital, the way we conduct market research has equally shifted. Now, instead of organizing research panels and other more traditional methods of audience-based data collection, more and more companies are opting to utilize social media for market research to identify social, consumer, or market trends.
Although social media marketing research on its own may not always be a perfect system (more on that below), social media can – and does – play an important role in helping businesses form a clearer understanding of their target audiences. For any business looking to define or sharpen its marketing strategy, that audience intel is absolutely crucial. Who are your consumers? What are their pain points? What drives them to make a purchase? All of those questions can be answered through thorough social media target audience research.
Drawbacks of social media research and analysis
First the bad news: Using social media for marketing research isn’t always ideal. While studying and researching with social media seems like an attractive option because you have, essentially, the entire world at your fingertips, the reality is that not everyone in the world is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. When you limit your data collection and analysis strictly to social network market research, it means you’ll never reach those members of your audience who don’t have a presence on these platforms. That is certainly a major drawback to using social media for research, although with 3.81 billion social media users across the globe, your potential reach is still pretty darn good.
The other primary concern in using social media for market research is a phenomenon known as the “herd mentality.” If you’ve spent a lot of time on Facebook et al., you’ve likely noticed that social media users tend to be impulsive and are prone to modeling others’ behavior (monkey see, monkey do). For everyday social media interactions, it’s usually no big deal. But when you’re trying to gather data, it can negatively affect the accuracy of your results. If you present a poll, for instance, and other people’s responses are visible before voting, your respondents’ votes may be swayed by what the crowd before them has already established.
5 advantages of using social media for market research
Now the good news: Despite a few drawbacks, social media and market research actually work really well together, especially when used as part of your company’s overall social media marketing strategy. There are five major advantages that we’ll examine here.
- It’s fast. People are on social media all the time. Whether you’re looking for feedback on a new or potential product or service, or you’re compiling behavioral info about your audience, as soon as you begin your social media market research, the data starts to become available almost instantly.
- It’s current. You never have to assign an end date to your research, which means you can continue to gather and analyze data over time, ensuring your findings are always up-to-date even as your audience’s preferences change.
- It’s affordable. Lots of times, it costs nothing at all, like when a customer leaves an unprompted review.
- It promotes loyalty. When you make an effort to interact with your audience on social media – to ask their opinion or to learn more about them – it shows the customer that you care about their wants and needs. That sense of connection is important in capturing repeat customers.
- The data is vast. In addition to doing your own primary research, you can also reference any information that was already compiled by other sources on social media as secondary research.
Social media marketing research tools
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are the most popular platforms for social media marketing research because, first and foremost, they are the most used by businesses. But they also offer the ability to utilize a number of powerful market research tools, including:
- Engagement Tracking – Monitoring the number of likes, comments and shares on a particular post
- Social Listening – Passively gathering feedback from your customers or monitoring opinions about your brand or competitors
- Polls – Asking questions directly to your consumers and encouraging them to share their opinions
Just by having a presence on social media, you can begin doing your own market research. But if you’re still looking for more information on how best to use social media for market research to grow your business, give us a call. We’ll be happy to advise you through the process.