One of the most important steps to take before speaking to your customers through your web content is learning what they want, and what opinions they have about you and your competition.
But what if you don’t have the budget to pay for expensive research data or conduct focus groups? Targeted market surveys can cost up to $10,000 to reach a sample of just 1,000 people.
The advent of social media over the past decade has resulted in more and more people voluntarily sharing the valuable information market researchers pay for on sites like Facebook and Twitter. eMarketer predicts that the number of Twitter users alone will skyrocket this year to over 18 million, and March 4, 2010 marked the 10 billionth Twitter status update. That’s 10 billion times people have posted information online for all to see about what they are doing, thinking, and buying.
Tapping into the sea of information online can seem intimidating if you don’t know where to begin. By following a few simple guidelines you can learn how to listen to what your customers are saying about your industry, products, and services, and use that information when crafting your marketing communications.
Familiarize Yourself with Social Networking Sites
Your customers are leaving tidbits of valuable information all over the Internet on popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, Del.icio.us, and Digg. They are also commenting on articles featured in industry blogs and participating in niche market discussion forums.
Here’s a quick breakdown of some social networking sites:
- Facebook — Users create personal profiles where they update their friends on recent activities with photos, links, and status updates. Businesses often have ‘fan pages’, which operate as mini websites keeping fans up to date on promotions and new products.
- Twitter — Similar to Facebook, users have personal pages where they update their followers on their activities. Businesses have Twitter pages to build relationships with their customers, update them on promotions and new products, and drive traffic to their websites.
- Del.icio.us and Digg — Both are ‘social bookmarking’ sites where users share content they’ve found online that interests them. The site also provides a way to track the most popular sites and topics users are sharing.
Look for Discussions Relating to Your Industry
If you want to know what people are saying about your competition on Twitter, for example, you can type their brand name into the search bar to see all their recent mentions. If you notice that a large number of people are unhappy with your competition’s product or services, you may want to consider tapping into that concern when talking about the benefits of your product. You can do the same thing for things they like about products or services related to yours. Next, try searching your own brand name to see what people are saying about you.
Discussion forums are also a great resource. For example, say you want to rebrand your horse grooming products. You might gain some insight into the qualities people look for when choosing such products by observing online discussions of people who use them. A quick Google search for ‘horse grooming products’ reveals a very active discussion forum with nearly 90,000 posts by horse enthusiasts on the topic of horse grooming alone. Observe a forum discussion on product reviews and see which qualities the participants look for in an ideal product, and then consider highlighting these qualities in your web content.
You can also search Del.icio.us and Digg for popular articles on topics related to your industry. Searching ‘pet food’ on Digg, for example, reveals that articles relating to a recent pet food contamination scandal have been ‘Dugg’ or reposted thousands of times. You might want to consider letting your potential customers know that your pet food products are safe for their furry friends.
Get Close, Get Personal
Social media offers an inexpensive and highly effective opportunity to get close and personal with existing and potential customers alike. Tap into these communities to help you craft and convey messages that connect and truly resonate with your market.
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