Past methods of gathering marketing research, such as special focus groups and surveys done by telephone, mail and email, are archaic in this digital age. Yes, soon even email will no longer be considered cutting edge or modern when it comes to investigating consumer behavior. That’s because new and more inventive methods are available — and social media sites lead the pack. The informal, short bits of information exchanged between consumers and between a company and its customers are goldmines for marketing researchers. Here are five ways businesses can use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Vine and other social media to analyze audiences and their market.

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1. To Gain a Better Understanding of Target Audiences.

Social media profiles contain plenty of information to help determine which demographics are supporting a brand. Ages, birthdays, gender, social groups, world views and hobbies are all laid bare for business to gather and study.

In addition, since more than 75 percent of people who follow or befriend companies on social media are already customers — and the rest have heard about the company from peers and are thinking about patronizing them, then businesses can be assured that they truly have real buyers and often loyal buyers sharing views or responding to requests to take surveys.

In studying the comments of loyal followers, businesses can put together a true picture of how and why people are using their products and services, when they are using them and in what context. This very intimate feedback can help companies fine tune their brand’s image, message and marketing campaigns so that it link customers’ lingo, tone, leisure habits or cultural connections to a product.

Lastly, since social media reaches millions across the global each minute, a company gets a very comprehensive view of all those who purchase their products — for more than can be gained in a focus study or surveys.

 

2. To Obtain Raw and Real Consumer Opinions about Products and Services.

Formal requests sent by companies to customers after a transaction often attract guarded, polished and superficial responses — that is if the customer responds at all. Social media allows businesses to eavesdrop on real thoughts that buyers have about products and services. If customers love something,they may tweet about it, post a photo of themselves using it on Facebook or do a YouTube video review.

Then, other buyers may comment to support the customer’s view or counter it. Also, social media users may link to bloggers who’ve written an review of a product. This allows companies to figure out what well-respected online personalities are influencing customers. Businesses can establish relationships with such bloggers, sending out promotional products or test items for review.

Studying and analyzing such feedback is essential for any business. In just a hour or two each day or week, businesses can scour social media mentions or use software that tallies brand mentions and related keywords in order to compile useful data.

 

3. To Reduce Marketing Research Time.

One of the best benefits of using social media for marketing research is that feedback is instant. As soon as a customer posts something, it’s available to be read by businesses and anyone else in real time.

Since customer’s tastes and needs can fluctuate, this fast relay of information ensures that the data will be timely, accurate and not obsolete.

 

4. To Analyze Every Aspect of a Marketing Campaign.

Twitter has been a boon to many businesses because of its trending lists and hash tag search options.

Businesses can uses both these functions to research not just overall reaction to a company or product but reactions to a individual features, uses, costs or quality. Hashtags allow a company to shape and organize responses; researchers can solicit views about specific traits of a product, service or advertisement and then tell followers to put a telltale hashtag to respond to specific questions. This allows for ultra customized feedback about anything. In fact, if you drum up enough discussion about some quality, feature or use of a product, you might get it trending.

 

5. To Follow Up on Marketing Behavior

Because friends and followers forge actual relationships with a company and interact with them over time. Businesses can follow up on consumer behavior, repeatedly asking for feedback on feedback. They can ask for clarification on views, solicit more in-depth responses and even have long-time customers agree to participate in trials of new products. Social media allows relationship-based marketing on a far larger scale that was possible before.

 

About the author

WillP

Willie Pena is a freelance writer, video producer, visual artist, and music producer. He prefers the Oxford

comma. In addition to writing for firms such as Insights in Marketing, he also shoots, directs, and edits the hit celebrity web series. Connect with him on LinkedIn.