Of all parts of marketing and product development, research might be the most fun (and the most work). While doing research is absolutely important to any business process, getting maximum output can require maximum resources, which is rarely sustainable and often overwhelming.
The result is research that is either underdone or overruled. Luckily, the marketers of today have the option to leave traditional research methods behind and go fully digital. With the world’s largest database of market insights being social media, there’s every reason to permanently move research over there.
Social media offers insights into every part of a product’s journey as seen by target audiences – the groups all marketing efforts are built around. Therefore, using social media for research is not only convenient but also self-evident, seeing how it’s the ultimate source of first-hand data.
The problem is that social media is huge and overcrowded. To work with social data, you need social listening tools built to crawl all of the Internet to find and analyze conversations relevant to your business. Basically, these are your personal assistants monitoring social media and the web non-stop for mentions of whatever you have in mind.
There are many ways to use social listening tools, and research is one of them. In this post, I will walk you through five types of research you can run from the comfort of your home or office. Grab a social listening tool of your choice and research away!
Social listening is a brilliant way to get a picture of the business environment you’re operating in. By setting up mentions monitoring for the name of your industry, you uncover:
- Market leaders
- Industry trends
- Niche influencers
- Industry media and publishers
- And so much more!
Once your social listening tool has performed an initial scan, you are informed to your teeth on every aspect of building and growing a company in your industry. From here, you can start monitoring more specific aspects of the current business landscape.
Pro tip: Try monitoring with Boolean search to put together complex queries and get location and platform-specific insights.
Competitor research is an extension of market research. It allows you to keep close tabs on what your competition is up to, all the while uncovering and reverse-engineering their best strategies and avoiding their mistakes.
Basically, all you need to do is set up mentions monitoring for the names of your competitor brands, CEOs, campaigns, social media handles, and anything that will bring you insights on the companies you are competing with. This way, you will have reliable data on what makes and breaks your competition.
With social listening insights, you can determine each of your direct competitor’s share of voice, reputation, and strongest allies from mass media and influencers.
Pro tip: Reach out to the influencers your competitors work with – they are likely to be good ambassadors of your brand as well.
Product research is yet another extension of market research that lets you examine demand and collect honest user feedback on the products you want to implement or improve. As you’re likely to be researching several items within the same product category, you can benchmark their social listening analytics against each other.
By now, you know the drill – start monitoring mentions of the products you want to examine and get access to every social media discussion and feedback related to the items you are researching. Because social listening tools bring you raw data, you can search it further and fetch user opinions on specific aspects of products and services.
Pro tip: While searching for mentions of the products you are offering; social listening tools identify people researching your product category and therefore help you find leads on social media.
Audience research is the cornerstone of any marketing strategy. For new businesses and well-established companies alike, understanding key audience segments is crucial for making informed business decisions.
All research with social listening is audience research. Because social data comes from real people on social media and the web, any type of research is also audience analysis. What makes audience research different is the metrics you will be looking at. Most social listening tools offer a variety of analytics related to target audiences:
- Usage of social platforms
- Opinion leaders
- Concerns, interests, etc.
The more detailed the demographic insights your social listening tool offers, the better you get to know the audiences you will be targeting. The countries and languages breakdown, meanwhile, makes for a decent analysis of the demand and coverage.
Pro tip: Research your competitors’ audiences in addition to your own to study intersections and identify gaps.
Content research is a pillar of content marketing and a brilliant source of working insights. Tied closely to audience research, it allows you to get a detailed picture of what types of content resonate best with the people you are targeting.
The most exciting thing about content research with social listening is that there are virtually no limitations to it. Any public figure, debate, or phenomenon can be studied to the max to know exactly where your audiences stand in relation to any issues.
Social listening tools let you monitor and analyze hashtag usage the same way you would be monitoring keywords or social media handles. Hashtags are arguably the best and most reliable indicators of your audience’s dispositions, so make sure you use social listening to conduct hashtags analysis of your own.
Pro tip: Take note of mass media outlets covering topics important to your audience as well as the angle of reporting to ensure similar coverage in the future.
Social listening is the most sure-fire (and 100% legal) way to free, first-hand insights into every aspect of marketing and business processes. Whatever type of research you choose to start with, you can rely on social listening tools to do the job with minimum involvement on your part and absolutely genuine results.
Author: Aleh Barysevich is Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at companies behind SEO PowerSuite, professional software for full-cycle SEO campaigns, and Awario, a social media monitoring app. Aleh is a seasoned SEO and social media expert and speaker at major industry conferences.