Embrace the crowd and charge brand strategy with social intelligence
By making use of social media, marketers can tap into the world’s biggest focus group to add instant, informed feedback to refine traditional research results, says Toluna’s Mark Simon
In this social media age there is now no excuse for omitting critical market research from any marketing campaign strategy. Previous stumbling blocks of high cost and lengthy, time-consuming processes of carrying out research have been countered by the organic proliferation of online communities, brought about through the worldwide popularity of Facebook and its core values of connecting and engaging with scalable target audiences.
By tapping into these online communities - where users come together over a shared appreciation for, or ‘like’ of, a brand or product - and by investing in crowdsourcing research techniques, marketers can obtain fast, cost-effective, real-time insights and opinions that can then be dovetailed with traditional, more scientific research methods or analysed on a standalone basis.
The burgeoning trend for crowdsourcing opens up a whole spectrum of interactive engagement opportunities for smaller businesses that might previously have not had the means or mindset to consider market research.
For bigger agencies, brands or researchers, it permits another level of collaboration, control and continuity between them and the consumer, who can provide the most useful feedback of all.
Research obtained by crowdsourcing, especially that garnered from Facebook, can be invaluable in generating instant impressions of a strategy, idea, new product or experience before it’s released to the public. Your Facebook fans can tell you all sorts of things - from how they feel about your existing products and brands and how they use them day to day, to their ideas for new concepts or improvements. Answers can be sought to any question through the basic application of an online questionnaire. In addition, enhancement of page content through ‘gamification’ techniques or multimedia bolt-ons, such as video or customised apps, catches and maintains user interest and helps make the concept mobile.
Conversely, when utilised following an extensive market research project, crowdsourcing can help to validate or revalidate findings after what can often become extended time lapses. The time it takes to gather, execute and analyse this kind of digital data is minimal in comparison to traditional research.
Agencies, meanwhile, can take advantage of its immediacy and use it to add high gloss sheen to new business presentations - demonstrating a creative awareness of modern research capabilities to prospective clients, yet saving money and resources in the process.
The beauty of Facebook for marketers looking for consumer feedback is in its emergence as one of the world’s biggest focus groups. People sign up to share content, express opinions and get involved. The automated potential for word-of-mouth marketing through ‘likes’, recommendations and referrals is immense and something which Facebook itself is working hard to monetise.
Added to that, the everyday opportunity for real-time, ongoing engagement represents a fantastic asset to brands looking to strengthen their customer connections.
In a 2011 Toluna/C&M survey, it was revealed that 45 per cent of people choose to interact with brands on the web or through social media, while almost 50 per cent of people use social and online sources to get brand news and updates. What’s more, nearly 80 per cent of all interactions on Facebook are simple ‘likes’, but 20 per cent are messages proactively posted to brand pages.
Users normally tend to associate themselves with brands that not only value their opinions, but also listen to their opinions and act upon their feedback, so it is those brands that are switched on to the potential of digital research and, more importantly, primed to mould their campaigns in accordance with the results, that stand to benefit the most.
Anyone wanting to explore consumer feedback via Facebook will no doubt have some fundamental issues to overcome first. Whether you have 100 Facebook fans or 100 million, you still have no idea who your fans are, why it is they ‘like’ you or how closely they match your target customer profiles. Without first understanding these criteria, it will be difficult to create meaningful, interactive relationships with them.
Customised Facebook communities, including Toluna’s PanelPortal Connect, can help to transform faceless fans into fully profiled respondents who can, in turn, deliver valuable business insights - all without them having to leave the familiarity of the Facebook platform. Subscribers invite their fans to join a branded panel community built within Facebook where online questionnaires, polls, forums and competitions can be launched to encourage consumer engagement. Panel activity, including peak activity times, can be fully monitored using a clear interface, giving subscribers the chance to respond and engage in real-time discussions to gain instantaneous insights. Toluna’s advanced analytics tool then generates detailed reports helping brands to analyse results and refine their marketing spend.
Much more than just a social media-monitoring tool, a system like PanelPortal Connect represents a new way to interact with fans to better understand behaviour and activate them into becoming fully paid-up consumers. It’s an enabler to accumulating fast, cost-effective, collaborative research that informs the marketing decision-making process.
The platform has the capability to provide similar qualitative and quantitative findings to standard research and should be seen as an extension of, rather than a replacement for traditional methodologies. And with so much content and dialogue flying around the internet these days, it would be remiss of any marketer not to capture the zeitgeist and channel more social intelligence into their campaigns.
Today’s consumer is more tuned in, vocal and responsive than ever before and while no one would suggest they know better than you how to run your business, they are the ones who will decree whether that business sinks or swims. In this new age it pays real dividends to embrace the crowd culture, listen and evaluate before making that next big move.
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