If you’re a geek like me, you don’t watch the movie Big because it’s a Tom Hanks classic — you watch it because it’s a movie all about market research (with a heartwarming story thrown in).
Market research has seen some changes since Big, though. Toys are increasingly more technical, and companies can collect buyer data each time something is scanned at the register. Added to the massive amounts of data being collected through lead generation and sales transactions, social media has added a lens through which companies can conduct their research.
“What we’re seeing as a new trend are the additional capabilities social technology offers,” said Brandon Hall Group Chairman and CEO Mike Cooke. “Companies pop up with solutions where you can track and tally responses on Twitter, Facebook, and more. Leveraging social networks and community behaviors adds contextualization to understand what to research.”
Instead of pounding the pavement collecting surveys, companies can analyze social data to start finding pools of people for their research. Social data isn’t just for what people buy, either. It’s about the opinion leaders who impact business decisions. And those people tell it like it is.
“Everyone is a content producer or a subject matter expert,” said Cooke. “People are more willing to share their voice about any topic. Look at how many people have shared their voice on the Yahoo work-from-home policy — and a lot of that is taken out of context.”
Social has changed the way people collect market research, but it’s also changed the way companies share their decisions and their findings. Not every decision announced to the press needs a 100-page research report attached, but not sharing some of that research skews the message. “In the case of Yahoo’s new policy, it was a data-driven decision being made by a CEO answering to shareholders and trying to turn around a business that is missing hundreds of millions in market share. You have to add that context, and then it helps make decisions easier. Share that context and people understand your decisions.”
As social media continues to grant voices to consumers, companies can listen in. Even in B2B marketing, influencers can impact whether a company even puts a software vendor on the short list for proposals. Influencers (and Google) can carry a lot of weight.
But social networks aren’t all about bad news. Top brands are empowering users to be evangelists. Market research will help identify who those users are and what they appreciate about your brand. Their voice could change the direction of your company. Put an ear to the pulse of social networks and make those findings part of your market research strategy.