3 Ways to Use Active Social Listening as a Priceless (and Free) Market Research Tool

By Candie Harris As a former brand marketer, if someone had told me I could have access to the hearts and minds of my most loyal consumers (as well as my competitor’s), my first question would be: “How?" My second question would be: “How much will it cost?” Having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on various market research studies, I know how valuable key consumer insights are and how difficult they are to get. The explosion of social media platforms and communities provide a great amount of consumer insight treasures if you know how to find them. And, although there are a plethora of listening tools out there, true insights come only when individuals listen and think about how their brands could potentially be impacted.

Here are three quick (and free) tips to get you started:

1. Listen to learn.

The simplest way to start learning about relevant things that people are saying is to search Twitter using a hashtag for your company or brand, making sure to include misspelled versions. Best practice also includes searching your primary and secondary competitors. You certainly can gain knowledge and insights by combing these types of Twitter searches. However, a powerful way to supplement what you learn on Twitter is to utilize Instagram and Pinterest. By searching on these platforms, you can see a visual representations of your brand from your customers. This type of research can show how your products are being used and provide ideas for content that will resonate with your loyalists.

2. Listen about your industry.

Here is a trick that has the potential to yield amazing results. Use the search function on Twitter to search, “I wish." You can put in your company name, your brand, your functional benefits, your competitors, your distributors; the list is endless. With a little digging, this simple search technique can uncover needs and desires that could lead to product ideas. It can identify areas that your competitors are not focusing on, markets that aren’t being served, and potential ways to become more valuable to your distributors.

3. Listen to get instant feedback.

Utilize your Facebook community as a way to get instant feedback from the people that care about your brand most. Marketers have traditionally had many options to test all parts of the marketing mix; from product concepts to new logo and packaging designs. Yet, despite the use of focus groups, quantitative surveys, in-home testing, and a whole host of other methods, there have been some well documented marketing mistakes. The launch of "New Coke," the new Tropicana Orange Juice package, the new Starbucks logo, and the splitting of Netflix into two companies are all examples of when loyal consumers rebelled and quickly voiced their displeasure,  resulting in costly changes. It is possible to easily reduce the risk of those types of mistakes by asking your Facebook community for volunteers to participate in a closed Facebook group. You can then vet the volunteers (to make sure there are no competitors lurking) and create a vehicle to privately gain input on a new logo, product concept, or marketing message. These fans are happy to share their insights and enthusiasm--and honesty can be valuable in helping bring your brand forward.

These simple techniques, when done on a regular basis can yield unlimited opportunities. I would love to hear what you have done or learned through active social listening.

For more tips on social listening, download our free eBook, Shut Up and Listen: Why Active Social Listening Matters.