Saturday, June 13, 2009

Social Networks as a Market Research tool

Traditionally, marketers used demographics (compiled by market research firms) as one of the main tools to identify and target potential customers. Factors such as a person's age, sex, and where they live remain important to getting your message across to the right people.

Social networking is one of the hottest new Web technologies in sight with millions of users registering and participating around the globe. The social web is an often overlooked resource full of excellent information. Whether you’re working on a research project, building your brand, or just trying to find some information, look to social media sites to find what you’re looking for.

Participants worldwide contribute to and collaborate in readily available online discussions, creating new knowledge bases that are not yet fully recognized as information sources. Social networks typically require registration but are free to join, and significantly, to search for a vast array of reference questions, research projects, and to find experts for all kinds of requirements.

Word of mouth has always been one of the most powerful marketing methods—people more often that not use the products that their friends like and recommend. Social media sites can provide this type of data on numerous products and services. Want to find the best laptop computer? Doing a traditional Google search won't get you far. Why? Because you won't get a recommendation, or multiple recommendations. More than likely, you'll get review sites. Do a search on a social networking site, however, and I guarantee you will find a list of what people think are the best laptops.

Because of the open nature of social networking, you can easily find your customers and see what they do online and who their friends are. Friends of your customers are an excellent target market. In fact, research has shown that people are as much as five times more likely to buy a product if their friends like it.

While you may not be able to get full details of an existing customer's contacts from websites like FaceBook and MySpace, you can get a lot of valuable information. If you set up a FaceBook profile and ask to become a friend with an existing customer, you will most likely be accepted, if they liked your product. Through this one connection, you have the opportunity to identify their friends and other contacts.

Some people may argue against the ethics of this, it can certainly be effective. If you're genuine and upfront, you shouldn't have any problems. If you approach it as a problem solver, rather than a marketer, you'll be able to make some headway.

However, it's not a good idea to make unsolicited requests for friendships on these websites. You'll probably get rejected as well as banned from contacting that person again. However, if you can come up with good, interesting content you can send it along to your friend list. If people value your information, they will ultimately value you.

Use these tips to make the most out of social web research.
  1. Set up alerts: Use various services to create tracking and alerts for industry keywords, your name, and any other information that is relevant to your research.

  2. Filter your feeds: Monitoring social media can be time consuming, so set up your feeds to
    only deliver content that’s relevant to you.

  3. Pay attention to demographics: Be sure to pay attention to the demographics of the social media users you’re using for research.

  4. Monitor your reputation: Researching the social web will allow you to find out when others are talking about you and allow you to respond.
  5. Use Google Search’s site: operator: By adding “site:yoursocialmediasiteofchoice,” you can delve into the depths of just about any social media site.

  6. Set up feeds: Save yourself some time when researching-instead of occasionally checking for alerts, news, and other pieces of social web information, set up an RSS feed that will collect it for you.

  7. Regularly assess subscriptions: Make sure you’re only following feeds that are helpful to your research by doing a review every month or quarter.

  8. Perform market research on your connections: In Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tools, you can turn to your own connections and learn about their interests just by monitoring the videos, images, and information they post.

  9. Use a dashboard: Create your own social media monitoring dashboard in order to keep all of your research in one place.

  10. Seek out authorities: On Facebook, Twitter, and other sites, get connected with users who will provide you with excellent information.

  11. Look beyond who you already know: Check out your contacts’ contacts to find people that can offer you quality knowledge as well.

  12. Just ask: Make use of your social media connections, and simply ask the people you know on Twitter Facebook, LinkedIn and other social sites what you’d like to find out.

  13. Use “best of” features: On FriendFeed, you can use the “best of” feature to only check out the best posts of the day, week or month, so you can just skip to the good stuff.

  14. Find out what’s buzzing in your niche: Use social media to track ideas and see what’s going on in your niche.

  15. Check out popular posts: Use tools that will allow you to see the most popular posts on the web.

  16. Research your competitors: The social web is a great place to learn about what your competitors are putting out there, and what others are saying about them.

  17. Stay on top of breaking news: Use social media research to keep up with the important events happening in your niche.

  18. Always check out the comments: On blogs with a good following, the comments are often as valuable as the blog post itself.

  19. Get networked: Find out who is talking about issues that are relevant to your niche through social web research.

Social Media Goldmines

Check out these sites for the most reliable research information on the social web.

  1. Delicious: Delicious is the biggest collection of bookmarks online, and can point you to high quality resources for just about anything.

  2. Wikipedia: This excellent online encyclopedia offers information on just about anything you’d like to know about.

  3. Digg: Digg highlights top stories and breaking news across the web.

  4. Facebook: With a large enough network, you can use Facebook to crowdsource information and perform your own market research on connections.

  5. Yelp: Research local businesses through the information found on Yelp.

  6. Twitter: Build your Twitter follow list to include sources that can provide you with the ongoing information you seek.

  7. Flickr: Find images and photographs of people, events, and more on Flickr.

Polls, Q&A

Ask questions and get answers with these tools.

  1. BuzzDash: Using BuzzDash, you can create a poll and get community members involved.

  2. LinkedIn Polls: With LinkedIn Polls, you’ll be able to find answers to your research questions by asking your network and other professionals.

  3. WikiAnswers: On WikiAnswers, users can edit answers to questions anyone asks.

  4. IKnowTweet: This site monitors Twitter for questions and answers.

  5. Research Aid: Use Research Aid to get information via questionnaires on Facebook.

  6. Ask MetaFilter: Use MetaFilter’s tags and search to find the information you’re looking for on Ask MetaFilter.

  7. ToAnswer: Ask a question to @toask, and you’ll get answers through your Twitter account.

  8. Answerbag: On Answerbag, you’ll be able to post questions and receive answers that others can vote on.

Monitor what’s popular on social media sites using these tools.

  1. TweetVolume: Find out how much your keyword is discussed, and its stats to similar terms.

  2. Facebook Lexicon: Check out Facebook Lexicon to see what’s being discussed on Facebook walls.

  3. Technorati: Blogger Central: Check out rising links, top blogs, and more in BloggerCentral.

  4. Social Radar: Social Radar offers the Ultimate social media marketing with an overview of content from blogs, social networks, feeds, news, and forums.

  5. TweetScan: TweetScan will tell you who is currently talking about the keywords you subscribe to.

  6. eKstreme: eKstreme shares blog data from Technorati and social bookmarks from

  7. Google Trends: Google Trends shares some of the hottest search trends in social media and beyond.

  8. Twendz: Stay on top of Twitter conversations and trends through Twendz.

  9. BlogPulse: Nielsen Buzzmetrics’ BlogPulse offers automatic trend discovery on blogs, and what’s going on in the blogosphere.

  10. Trendpedia: With Trendpedia, you can see charts that show the volume of topic discussion.

  11. PostRank: Using PostRank, you’ll be able to find the most talked about posts on any RSS feed.

  12. Omgili Charts: Through Omgili’s Buzz Graphs, you can measure and compare the buzz of different terms.

These tools will make it easy for you to go straight to what you’re looking for.

  1. Technorati: Use Technorati’s search to find out what’s being said in the blogosphere.

  2. Google Custom Search: Google Custom Search will make it easier for you to get results only from the blogs and social media websites that you’re interested in.

  3. Social Mention: Social Mention searches all over user generated content to find the information you seek.

  4. compfight: compfight will search Flickr for inspiration, research, and more.

  5. Yahoo! Pipes: Using Yahoo! Pipes, you’ll be able to better wrangle information on the social web and beyond.

  6. Keotag: Use Keotag to tag multiple search engines and generate social bookmark links.

  7. BlogCatalog Social Media Search Engine: This search engine seeks out information from the BlogCatalog directory as well as more than 20 other social media sites.

  8. Addictomatic: Addictomatic makes it easy for you to create your own custom page with buzz on any topic.

  9. Icerocket: Icerocket will allow you to search blogs, the web, Twitte, MySpace, and more.

  10. FlickrStorm: Use FlickrStorm to find related and relevant images on Flickr.

  11. WhosTalkin?: This social media research tool will allow you to find topics on more than 60 popular social media sites.

  12. Google Blog Search: Find recent blog posts in your keywords to get ongoing insight.

  13. BoardReader: Using BoardReader, you’ll be able to search multiple message boards and forums at once.

  14. Alltop: Alltop’s “online magazine rack” will help you find information about popular topics being discussed in blogs.

  15. Omgili: Omgili offers a search that focuses on user generated platforms like forums, discussion groups, and other social media.

  16. Twitter Search: You can search to see current conversations on Twitter.
Tracking & Alerts

With these tools, you can conveniently get updated whenever your keywords are mentioned on the social web.

  1. Tip’d Social Tickers: SocialTickers on Tip’d will allow you to track stock tickers all over the social web.

  2. ThreatTracker: Using ThreatTracker, you can identify and assess online threats to your company, brand, or product.

  3. Google Alerts: Get email updates on the latest Google results for your keyword from Google Alerts.

  4. TweetDeck: TweetDeck is a Twitter application that offers grouping and notifications for keywords.

  5. Technorati Watchlist: Set up a Technorati Watchlist to find out when certain URLs or keywords are mentioned in blogs.

  6. Wikiscanner: Wikiscanner will help you learn about anonymous Wikipedia edits from well known organizations.

  7. Monitter: Set up keywords in Monitter to keep an eye on keywords on Twitter through RSS as well as live monitoring.

  8. Backtype: Backtype is an excellent tool for monitoring blog comments.

  9. The BuzzMonitor: Use this open source application to listen to what people are saying on blogs and other social media.

  10. BoardTracker: Track words in forums with BoardTracker.

  11. Yacktrack: Through Yacktrack, you can follow comments from a variety of sources all at once.

  12. Filtrbox: Use Filtrbox to track your prospects, brand, competition, and investments on the social web and all over the Internet.

  13. TweetBeep: TweetBeep is a reliable tool for getting alerted when someone tweets about your selected keywords.
Analytics & Information Gathering

Analyze and gather information with the help of these tools.

  1. Adonomics: Use Adonomics to get analytics for the Facebook platform.

  2. UGC Finder: Check out this tool to get information from citizen journalists.

  3. SocialToo: Get daily updates on social media analytics, create surveys, and more through SocialToo.

  4. Twitter Grader: Check out Twitter Grader to learn more about a Twitter user and discover related users as well.

Use these tools to get your social media research conveniently organized.

  1. iLeonardo: iLeonardo is a social utility that can help connect people with notebooks of information.

  2. PeopleBrowsr: PeopleBrowser will allow you to keep tabs on all of your most useful social networking sites at once.

  3. ThinkFold: ThinkFold makes it easy to create outlines for sharing and collaboration online.

  4. Netvibes: Netvibes is an excellent tool to use as an RSS social media monitoring dashboard.

  5. Google Docs and Spreadsheets: Organize your documents and spreadsheets online, and keep them open for collaboration with Google Docs and Spreadsheets.

  6. With, you can get your thoughts organized online.

  7. Zoho Notebook: Use Zoho Notebook to keep your research notes online in a handy place.

  8. Zotero: Add Zotero on to Firefox, and you can collect, manage, and cite your research sources right in your web browser.

  9. WebNotes: Using WebNotes, you’ll be able to highlight text, make sticky notes, and organize them all in folders.

  10. Flowchart: Flowchart makes it easy to create organized charts for your notes and research information.

  11. UberNote: UberNote’s tool lives where you do your research-in your browser, email, IM, mobile device, and more.

  12. Backpack: Keep all of your research information together online using Backpack.

  13. Google Notebook: Use Google Notebook to keep notes, clips, and more handy, with the option to access notes from your mobile device.

  14. Connotea: With Connotea, you’ll be able to organize and share research information.

  15. EverNote: Research and take notes both online and on the go with EverNote.

  16. Google Reader: Make Google Reader your base for collecting research information from various RSS feeds.

  17. Notecentric: Notecentric will allow you to organize your notes online and share them with others.

  18. ClipMarks: With ClipMarks, you can save bits and pieces of any webpage, and even share them with others.

  19. Remember the Milk: Remember the Milk is a great tool for project checklists and more.

  20. openonmy: Use openonmy to store files up to 1GB online, so you can access them from anywhere.

  21. iLighter: Highlight portions of a webpage and save them to your notebook with iLighter.
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