It’s easy to find people asking questions, commenting, sharing content, and giving their opinions when you are online. There are many websites that are a goldmine of consumer habits and that provides opportunities for online marketers and business bloggers.
If you can find out where your target market is talking, all you have to do is listen. By listening, you’ll find out everything you need to know in order to connect with them and to lead them to your products and services.
Why should you listen? Why shouldn’t you just jump straight in with questions?
By listening you start to understand and observe the “unwritten” rules of these sites and their communities. You start to get a feel for the place and the characters of the participants. You may discover a thriving community who have no need for your products… and then again you may find you have an army of advocates for your products.
Whatever it is, you won’t know until you sit back and listen and become the fly on the wall.
Forums and Q&A Sites
Online forums and question-and-answer sites are my favourite places to find out what customers need and they can help you in a number of ways. You can use them to discover what topics are hot right now. For example, if you’re designing a new Internet marketing product, you can visit an Internet Marketing forum and see what people the conversations are about.
If there’s a lot of discussion on certain topics you can create a report or course on how to become more proficient in that area – you can ask questions too. In forums and question sites, you can find responsive people to help complete your surveys and other market research. Look out for the members who are most active and leave the most replies. This tells you that they love sharing their opinion and they’ll happily do so for you if you ask them nicely – remember not to assume.
You can discover other priceless insights by looking at what people are saying.
Read threads that are relevant to your products or services and they’ll tell you exactly what people are looking for. You can search these sites for keywords and if you don’t find what you need, start your own thread asking for opinions.
Social Networking Sites
Some people prefer social networking sites are better than forums and question sites – it’s just a matter of which one you personally prefer. For example in Facebook groups there is often a lot of discussion and engagement on a variety of topics. You can use them to find out what’s trending and how people feel about it. You can also observe Twitter chats as well as see what’s trending – a clear indication of what people are interested in!
Most social networking sites have a way for users to express their interest in content they like. On Facebook, they’re aptly called ‘likes.’ When lots of people like something, this can indicate that it’s popular. You can look at your target market likes on your competitors’ profiles, see what they are sharing and see what questions they are asking and how customers are responding.
Social media is a great leveller, it enables to you to piggy back with brands to find out what exactly your ideal customers are looking for.
Another reason social media sites are great for market research is that they often have detailed profiles. Think back to when you completed your profiles… Did you jump through all the hoops and complete everything you should have?
By looking at your customers’ profiles, you can find out what other interests they have.
Profiles are a terrific source of non-demographic information
- like how they see themselves
- what they think about current events
- and how they use the products they buy
One key difference with social media is that you need to be more subtle.
When you ask a direct marketing question, it may put people off and they may chose not to respond positively. Always remember social media sites are used for entertainment and socializing. Nobody ever thinks hmmm, I wonder what I can buy when I log into Facebook today…
People like to hang out online with their friends and share content they like. Take a friendly and personal approach. It helps if you have a lot of friends already on the site who you interact with casually.
Facebook is still the largest social media network, but it’s good to have a presence on as many as possible even if you are not active. This is for research purposes – for any other purpose it generally pays off to be active on just two or three sites. When it comes to research, you cna never have too much in my opinion.
Each social network offers unique ways to do market research. For example, on YouTube you can see which videos are getting the most views, the most likes the most comments. Video responses are another good way of measuring reactions.
On LinkedIn you can see what questions are being asked and where - you can even compare them to what sort of things are being asked in the Facebook groups.
On Slideshare what slides get the most downloads? What slides get the most comments? Personally, I find Slideshare a great tool for measuring what people are really interested in.
The Online Market Research Flow
- Find out where your target market hangs out online and then join the discussion. You cannot lurk forever.
- Start by identifying your audience as thoroughly as possible.
- You can also do a survey asking your current customers about their online activities or where they like to interact with their favorite brands.
Wherever that is, become a fly on the wall and soak it in. If you listen well, you’ll gather a treasure trove of information that you can use to your business blogging advantage.