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Using Social Media for Market Research

BuzzNumbers Social Insights






Michael Grierson – Analyst at BuzzNumbers

Every minute of every day there are conversations happening about your brand, your competitors and your industry. Within these conversations can be valuable ideas, the next product development that can give you a competitive advantage or a simple service improvement that saves you thousands.  They aren’t happening behind closed doors, or in stuffy focus groups, in fact they are very public and visible, located online in the world of social media.

So how do you best go about harnessing these valuable insights and conversations? Read on for the BuzzNumbers guide for using social media for market research.

There are two main ways you can use social media for market research.


  1. Data Mining  – Where you use a tool like BuzzNumbers to capture certain keywords you’re interested in then analyse the data you discover.
  2. Ask your online communities – Many brands these days have their own army of Twitter, Facebook etc followers that are passionate and will relish the opportunity to give their opinions.


Data Mining:

By capturing relevant conversations over a period of time gives you the opportunity to look at it in aggregate and reveal a lot about your customers, prospects, industry and competitors.  Wordmaps can show the most common words used to describe your brand (let’s hope it’s not “crap”) and peaks in conversation can identify crucial events that you need to take notice of. Some ways you may wish to analyse your data include:

Reveals where conversations about your brand are happening. Ie. On social media or forums.. or perhaps you’re brand is big on imaging sites like Instagram and never even knew.

Taking it a step further in discovering which websites the conversations are happening. This is a great way to discover where to best place your online ads.

Sentiment over time:
Easily spot events that caused your customers to either lay-on some praise or dish out complaints.

A large spike in negative sentiment


Find out who is leading the conversation in your industry or about your brand. You can reach out to them to help spread your PR messages or call on them if a testimonial is required. An Influencer matrix can also identify when someone high profile has mentioned your product. If Justin Beiber was using your product you would want to know about it right? (Even if it was to make sure he never touched it again).


With geo-tagging and location data attached to many social media mentions, now you can quickly see where conversations about your brand are happening. This can be very useful for when you’re deciding where to allocate your sales and marketing efforts.

A heat map showing where conversations took place across Australia.

The good thing about all this data? It’s unsolicited. That means the mentions recorded are being brutally honest and not tainted by commentators wanting to be polite or saying whatever the rest of the group thinks, as may occur in a focus group.


Ask your communities….

If people have taken the time to follow your page on Facebook (ie. voluntarily asking to drink your marketing infused cool-aid) then these are the people likely to be most passionate about your brand and relish the opportunity to give feedback.

Unlike a focus group or product testing session, you don’t have to coax apathetic respondents to give their opinions with money (up to $10k a pop).

Deciding on a new design for your packaging? Why not put the drafts on your Facebook page? You will quickly get a response of whether it’s popular or not. It’s highly valuable data straight from the keyboards of your customers all without the time consuming work of creating an eDM or bothering your customers with a intrusive phone survey at dinner time. All for free, often within minutes.

…..Or let them tell you

Social Media has quickly become one of the first ports of call for complaints, and why wouldn’t it? Customers don’t have to spend time waiting in a queue on the phone, and it’s highly visible (literally on one of your marketing properties) so they can vent their feelings where other customers will see them and a (smart) company is sure to take action.

Don’t look at social media complaints as bad publicity or a threat to your brand. Instead look at these as opportunities to take action both for the customer and internally to improve your systems to stop this happening again.  There are countless examples where unhappy customers have been transformed into life long advocates because companies listened and took action on social media. This chart from Visa Business shows that unhappy customers can be turned around if given positive support on social media.  Sure it’s only 36% but if no action was taken I’m pretty certain that figure would be a big fat 0%.

Taken from

From the Visa Small Business Facebook page:

Some companies have taken this a step further to let their customers identify issues and be part of the solution. Dell’s Idea Storm is one of the better known platforms. Here customers submit ideas to improve Dell products, the community then votes on the best ones, which Dell then implements. At time of publication Dell had implemented over 540 ideas that came from customers through this method.

Screen shot of Dell's Idea Storm website

Whichever way you look at it, there are priceless gold nuggets of insights about your business nestled within the Twitterverse, blogosphere and all over the digital world. And it’s easier to find than you think. So can you really afford not to be listening?


Michael is an online and social media analyst at BuzzNumbers keep up to date with him on Twitter at @mike_gee

24 October, 2013 - No Comments