Social Media Consumer Research

Consumer research can help to inform critical business decisions to ensure those decisions result in a positive outcome.

But, consumer research can be time intensive, costly, and can yield questionable results as a result of the unnatural conditions under which participants are providing their answers and insight.

Have you ever thought about utilizing social media as a supplement, or outright replacement to more traditional consumer research?

Conducting consumer research via social media affords many benefits versus traditional methods such as recruiting for in-person focus groups. It can be significantly less expensive, you can question your audience at a moment’s notice, you are more likely to get genuine responses, you’ll avoid having a single overbearing participant sway the opinion of a larger group, and it’s more flexible and adaptable.

Following are a few ways that you can conduct consumer research via social media:

Engage your community

This is pretty simple, but I find is something many organizations overlook. Why not just ask your social media community a couple of questions to help you make your business decisions?

Particularly if you’ve cultivated a highly engaged audience, I’ll tell you from personal experience that they’ll be eager to participate in the direction of your business, brand, product or service.

One word of caution here is that you should try to balance questions you might have with the other highly valuable content you are publishing on an ongoing basis, and not over do the question asking.

Social listening

Depending on what you are hoping to learn, perhaps you can simply listen in on conversations that are already happening on the social web about the topic that is of interest to you.

Commit to spending a good deal of time doing this, document what you are hearing, and identify patterns. Then, use this information to identify insights, understand popular opinions, and get a solid understanding of what people are thinking.

Setting up search streams in HootSuite, conducting Boolean searches on free platforms such as Social Mention, scouring blogs and other social media networks, and digging around on your favourite search engine are just a few ways that you can put your ear to the ground and find valuable information and insight.

Send out a survey

There are a number of free online survey services that give you some pretty solid features at little to no cost. Survey Monkey for instance, lets you create surveys with 10 questions and 100 responses for free. It’s an easy to use application that you really should take advantage of. Distribute the link to your survey on your blog, or on your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn communities.

Surveys are great because you can ask many questions at a time, and many online survey services will consolidate responses and serve them to you in easily digestible forms and tables.

As an alternative to online surveys, consider including a few survey-style questions into the registration process for your next Facebook promotion. If the reward for your promotion is compelling enough, registrants will be happy to take a moment to answer a few questions you have for them.

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Have you ever used your social media audience for purposes of consumer research?

What tools have you used on social media for research purposes?

What tools have you found to be effective for social listening?