Real-Time Social Media Research
As millions of social media users share their opinions and interests online, they’re also publishing valuable data that businesses can use to identify trends, study markets and reach potential customers.
By combining the search tools embedded in social media platforms with targeted keyword research, business owners can get a good sense of what people think about the products and services they use (or are researching) and potentially create relationships with motivated prospects.
If your business is involved with blogging, Twitter, Facebook or other social media services, it makes sense to try to target your messaging to your audience’s interests.
Google offers a free keyword analysis tool (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal) to help advertisers determine the most common words people use to search within their specialty. Business owners can use this service to determine not only what customers and prospects are searching for, but also related words that can help drive traffic to your site or Facebook page.
For example, a bakery owner wouldn’t be surprised to learn that "bakery" and "wedding cake" are among the most popular search terms, but including related terms such as "dessert" or, if appropriate, "gluten-free bakery," can also help attract readers.
Exploring Google’s keyword tools can provide additional insights related to searches within specific cities or at different times of day. This data can be helpful in establishing when customers are mostly likely to be online researching products or services. Knowing this could help you identify the best time to update Twitter messages or to send out company e-mail newsletters.
Harnessing Twitter Search
Twitter’s search feature (https://twitter.com/#!/search-home) gives business owners a powerful way to determine what people are saying about specific subjects as soon as they say it. This allows business owners to conduct basic market research and to identify emerging trends.
The bakery owner who, for example, finds a growing number of Twitter users posting messages about cupcakes or sugar cookies could be well served to provide some cupcake- or cookie-related content to attract the interest of potential customers.
While many companies conduct searches for their names (or the names of competitors), it can also be helpful to search on the popular keywords you’ve identified with the Google tools.
Once you’ve identified a potential customer who’s expressed an interest in something you provide, you have a couple of choices. If you serve consumers directly, you may want to reply to their message and perhaps offer a discount code.
Depending on your market, it may be more effective merely to follow the person. Since most Twitter users check out their followers before deciding whether to follow them back, you may be able to form a relationship that leads to business in the near future.
Finding Existing Customers
Twitter and Facebook targeting can also be a good way to enhance relationships with existing customers. Both platforms offer tools for entering your friends’ e-mail addresses to identify whether they’re active on either site, and you can apply the same idea to your business customers or newsletter subscribers.
Another effective way to identify customers’ social media identities is simply asking them. You can add a box for their Twitter handle or Facebook identity on any registration forms on your site.