You started a Facebook page and a Twitter feed for your company. You advertised it to customers and potential customers. You gained hundreds--maybe thousands!--of new friends and followers.
That’s great, but now what? Too many small businesses stop there. That’s a huge mistake. You’re missing out on the market research opportunity of a lifetime.
Your fans and followers represent a treasure trove of data--information on spending traits and brand preferences. Use that information right and you can open an amazing, productive dialogue with your target market, finding out what they love and hate.
Here’s how to start mining for information.
If your social media strategy is centered around amassing as many followers as you can, you’re two steps behind. You should be focusing on discussion, not on numbers. Businesses get too caught up on the number of constituents in their social media circles--the competition for fans. Getting the most out of social media is not about quantity; it’s about quality.
To get to that quality, you have to do more than just communicate with fans and followers. You need to develop meaningful exchanges. Social media, by nature, is, well, social. You cannot force conversations, which are all-too-often one sided. You must start an online dialogue that is brought back into consumer communities where perhaps it is not being spoken at all. Read, review, and react just as much as you post, posture, and project.
Want Answers? Ask Questions.
It may sound overly simplistic, but if you want information from your followers, simply ask--in the form of polls, questionnaires and surveys. Today, customers want to weigh in, and they expect businesses to listen.
Establish your objective before designing any research strategy. Do you want to gain information for future initiatives, services, or products, or do you want to improve on what currently exists? Do you want to learn about problem areas, price-points, or even your competition? Once you’ve established your objective, create a SIMPLE poll, questionnaire, or survey. Keep your ranking system simple, and ask very focused questions. Along the process, give customers updates on the review process with a note like "Almost Finished. Thanks for sharing your opinions."
Make Social Physical
Don’t rely solely on your social channels to get online information--you need a physical presence, too. For retail companies, post signage throughout the business, encouraging customers to post feedback and preferences. Have a terminal set up by your register with your Facebook page open, and invite them to take a minute to explore.
Okay, so you’ve established some online methods for mining for information. Great--that’s a huge step! In my next column, I’ll address how to take the next step and marry that insight with your offline marketing efforts.