Is Social Media Marketing the New Black? 5 Ways to Use Social Media for Market Research

Early in my career, I worked as a brand manager for Calvin Klein Cosmetics, which was owned by Unilever. I was responsible for launching new products and growing market share for Eternity fragrance and body products.

Eternity was one of the top 10 fragrances for women and was sold exclusively through department store retailers such as Nordstrom, Macy’s, Saks and Barney’s. The department store channel was a bit unsophisticated in terms of its ability to secure deep, or current, consumer market trend information. Real-time marketing research just did not exist. In order to get my hands on research, I often found myself reviewing last season’s focus group information or the BDI/CDI Reports (Brand/ Category Development Index). I would use the market information received on the BDI/CDI reports to decide my print and TV advertising spend but this really did not tell me much about the consumer.

I loved the challenge of utilizing limited data to develop insights and trends to support Calvin Klein’s marketing plans. However, as fulfilling as this work was, I look back now and often wonder how much more effective my team could have been if we had a Facebook or social media page. Even today I am not seeing much evidence that specialty retailers and marketers are leveraging Social Media Research the way they could be.

So I was thinking, should social media market research be the new black? Well if I put this in the context of my Calvin Klein days, research now shows that 19% of beauty buyers who made purchases based on blog posts say they stumbled upon the content via web search. I would say social media research is unavoidable. According to an article written in Forbes Magazine, Social Media is moving the consumer from sharing to purchasing at rapid speed. Vision Critical conducted a report of 6,000 social media users and found the following:

· About 40% of social media users have purchased an item after sharing or “favoriting” it on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

· Facebook is the network most likely to drive customers to purchase.

· Social media drives not only online purchasing, but in-store purchasing as well – and at about equal rates.

Here are 5 ways to leverage social media for customer research

· Facebook: Facebook offers a behind the scenes look at the way consumers conduct their personal lives. With this tool, companies can now see which products their consumers are buying. Businesses can also view what offers their consumers are taking advantage of and create offers that will appeal to their consumers directly. According to the social media giant, over 1 billion people use Facebook to connect. Facebook has also conducted research that shows only 38% of online advertising reaches its intended audience. By using Facebook, you can raise this percentage to over 89%.

· Twitter: By studying how people “Tweet”, companies can learn very specific things about the way their customers and potential customers communicate, when they communicate and what they are passionate about. By monitoring “hashtag” comments, businesses can rapidly learn the latest trends that are taking place in their market. Businesses market through Twitter by word of mouth. By using marketing tools provided by Twitter, companies are able to “Drive business growth and sales 140 characters at a time.”

Facebook and Twitter can both be helpful when you want to look at behaviors and the attitude of the consumer market that you are considering tapping into. It is an easy way to see if your product or service might be a fit for a target without engaging in long, drawn-out research.

· LinkedIn: LinkedIn is attractive more for your professional consumers. The site is intended for people to network amongst facebook follower their various fields and many special interest groups are active on LinkedIn. By using tools provided by the site, companies are able to share content with their professional customers and can really showcase the company’s brand. Businesses can also spread their reach by working with LinkedIn to help drive traffic to the company’s website.

· Blogs and Webpages: Blogs and webpages both work to introduce your company to your consumers. They allow you a medium to completely personalize the information that your consumers view about your company and products. There are also many tools that businesses can use to track which blogs and websites that their consumers are visiting. By using this data, you can custom tune your website and blog to the needs and desires of your consumers.

· Pinterest: Pinterest is just now beginning to gain traction with the social media industry. With this tool, businesses have the ability to see how their consumers respond on a more personal level. Here, you can view the consumer’s favorite foods, vacation spots, and which shoes they are likely to buy in the spring. By using Pinterest to promote their “Pins”, businesses are able to find a treasure trove of information about their consumers.

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