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Ok, so it’s been decided. A social media presence is crucial for most companies. It has become more or less an expectation from consumers, and it is one more way to communicate and establish a lasting relationship with them. Great. That should be reason enough to get involved. But if you need more convincing, I’ve got another benefit to throw at you.
FREE CONSUMER RESEARCH.
That’s right. Free. The classic “call to action” word that should grab your immediate attention and have you signing up now to every social media site you can think of!
Well, the catch of course is taking the time to be involved and to really listen. But theoretically, this should already be happening if you are properly managing customer relationships online. However, I am proposing that you take this information that is sitting in front of you, waiting to be used, and put it to use! Whether you are a marketer for a big or small company, social media is freely available and there to give you insight into your consumer’s minds.
A good first step would be to use a social media analyzer, such as www.socialmention.com, which is set up to alert you when your brand or company is mentioned on certain sites. It gives you scores on the following: your ‘strength’, or likelihood that your brand is being discussed in social media (calculated by phrase mentions within the last 24 hours divided by total possible mentions); your sentiment, or ratio of positive to negative comments; your passion, or measure of repeated discussion of your brand by advocates; and your reach. It also lists top keywords and users associated with your search. This allows you to listen in on conversations that are taking place spontaneously and not being prejudiced by your obvious presence (for example, if you asked them about your brand directly, consumers might respond differently). This gives you insights into likes and dislikes about your products or company, problems people are having, perceptions about your brand, and possible unmet needs that may open you up to new opportunities. This type of social media monitoring can provide so much feedback and will serve to help your company in decision-making and providing better offerings to your customers. You just have to listen. Also, pay special attention to blogs – these are usually the voices of thought and opinion leaders, who can provide an immense amount of feedback.
Another approach, of course, is to be more direct (as marketers, we are already pretty comfortable in this area, so it shouldn’t be too difficult). Just like in regular research methods, it is important to plan ahead before simply diving in; you must set goals for research. What do you want feedback on? You must establish questions to ask that will help reach these goals. Much like with regular research, you must also decide which avenues you want to take to collect information. Instead of deciding between surveys, direct mail, or focus groups, social media research involves deciding between using Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube (for example). The sites you chose should reflect what you want to accomplish with this research. For example, as proposed by marketer Stephanie Gehman, “Twitter may be useful if you need to reach large numbers of your audience and receive quick feedback”. Or, if you want to demonstrate a product, utilize YouTube and its comments.
There are so many possibilities and so many ways to collect information from your friends, fans, followers, and consumers. The information is just sitting there, ready to be put into constructive use!
Oh, and did I mention it’s free?