How to use social media to conduct market research and ace your B2B marketing strategy
It’s all too easy to think of social media marketing as an opportunity to promote your brand. While this can be true, social media offers a powerful method of gaining valuable insights about your customers, markets and competitors. Hard, actionable data, that you can use to improve your own performance. And the beauty of it is that you can do it yourself, at minimal cost, without needing a team of data scientists!
So, before we go into how to do it, I wanted to outline some compelling reasons why you need to use social media for market research and social listening:
- Understanding the size of your markets and target segments. If you’ve ever boosted a Facebook post or sponsored content on LinkedIn, you will know both platforms offer extremely granular targeting. You can use this information to get a pretty accurate view of market sizes by a range of segmentation criteria.
- Knowing where your target customer goes for information. Many of us make the mistake of LinkingIn or following people in our own industries. This is fine, but if you want to use social media to find new clients, then you are hanging out with the wrong crowd. For example, I work with a client who is an insurance broker. They have embraced LinkedIn and are actively creating content and commenting on other people’s content. This is great. But, most of the Directors are connected to other insurance professionals. So, their efforts are wasted as their audience will never become customers. They have started connecting with their own customers which opens up a new 2nd degree level of contacts that they can connect and engage with.
- Identifying the ‘influencers’ in your market. Often, when people think of influencers, Kylie Jenner or Kim Kardashian pop into mind. But, every sector has influencers, from insurance through to aerospace. Social listening will help you identify not only who they are, but what topics are key in your sector.
- No market is static. Things change, new products and services come to market all the time, customer behaviour changes. If you don’t keep scanning your market, you run the risk of falling behind your competitors. Social Media is a great means of conducting market analysis.
So, how do you do it?
There are plenty of tools to help you conduct market research using social media channels. But first, you need to look at your marketing strategy and set some objectives around your research.
Be clear about what you want to achieve. This will help you choose the right social media channels and tools.
For example, you may want to research entering a new market, launch a new product or service, find relevant industry events or glean behavioural insights on your target customers. Now you can work out which social channels you are going to focus on. You can select one or more social media channels, you just need to be clear on what you want to achieve and where your customers are. This article provides some great insight into the use of social channels by demographic.
Some tools and methods
There are numerous tools out there and I’ve selected a handful in this article that I use. Before we go into the tools though, I wanted to highlight some examples of brands that have used social insights well.
You might remember the mobile brand Three’s #Holidayspam campaign This was based on insight they had that people’s data usage increased considerably while on holiday. From this, they deemed that people love to show their holidays on social media. The campaign tapped into this very cleverly. Other examples are the Dove beauty campaigns, based on social media insights on women’s relationship with their physical appearance.
For tracking and competitor insights
Hootsuite allows you to track activity across social media networks and schedule posts. You can set up search streams to monitor hashtags and brand mentions. It’s useful when conducting competitor analysis, tracking campaigns and gaining insight into what people are talking about. It is also a great way to allow a brand to respond to queries or comments about the brand in real time.
A useful tip is to track an industry event/conference or Twitter chat relevant to you, set up search streams on that event hashtag and see who is actively discussing that event. Even if you’re not at the event, you can get a good understanding of the topics covered and who the influencers are. You can use this to inform your tactical marketing plan and identify physical events you should attend.
To inform content marketing and identifying influencers
This is a powerful tool that will help you identify influencers in your markets, show you what content is performing well across social networks and who is sharing content. It should form part of the armoury of anyone doing content marketing. In the example below, I’ve typed in Marketing Strategy and refined the search to focus on the UK. I can see the most shared articles relating to these keywords. I can then look at the influencers for this area and start following them.
This is great for finding insight on which hashtags people are using on Twitter and Instagram. You just type in a relevant hashtag. The tool shows who the top influencers are, how popular the hashtag is and where in the world it is most used.
Your posts are more likely to be found if you use a relevant hashtag. This tool can help you improve your content marketing and help you identify topics your audience is talking about (based on the hashtags they are using).
For understanding segment sizes
Facebook and LinkedIn Ad Manager Tools
If you have a business page on Facebook, go to the Promotions tab and from there you can set up an audience to promote to. You don’t have to launch a live ad, but you can use this to define a target segment. You can start with a broad search (for example business owners in Devon), but then refine this to a more targeted search, by including income levels, interests etc.
It’s worth mentioning that at the time of writing, this is the case, but this may well change in light of the current Facebook / Cambridge Analytica controversy. Facebook may well make changes to the data they capture on users and therefore the ability for marketers to target users.
If you set up a promotion or sponsor content on LinkedIn, you can be extremely granular as to who to target. You can set up campaigns purely to understand the approximate market size of a target to inform your marketing strategy. Given the volume of users on both these channels, you can get pretty accurate market and segment sizes.
For customer insight
A good opportunity is to start with your own social networks. As previously mentioned, make sure you are following your customers, not just influencers and industry peers. Look at who they are following, what they are talking about, who they are connected to. Again, there are some great tools to do this. Followerwonk allows you to analyse your Twitter followers, search Twitter bios and identify when your followers are posting.
Linkedin allows you to build your network based on 2nd-degree connections. By connecting with your target audience, you can grow your connections and start engaging with them (I don’t mean spamming them with sales messages, I mean engaging with their posts and building a relationship). By doing this, you will start to see what content resonates with them and what doesn’t. This will help inform your own content marketing but also help you to start turning LinkedIn connections to actual business relationships.
Finally, it’s important to remember that social media research is most effective when you combine it with traditional research methods. You will have much more success if you:
- set objectives
- choose the most relevant social media channel/s
- use it to test or confirm an assumption in your current marketing strategy.
Don’t run the risk of getting lost in a mound of data and finding you can’t draw insights because you’ve lost sight of the end goal.