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[Estimated read time: 4 minutes]
From its humble beginnings in the early days of the internet, social media has become a powerful tool for brands. Not only do social networks provide a two-way communication channel between companies and customers, they provide market insights straight from the mouths of consumers. Savvy brands are using social media intelligence to augment their traditional market research efforts. Social media monitoring tools allow marketers to better understand consumer needs and opinions, survey the competitive landscape, and make more informed decisions.
Let's look at a hypothetical footwear brand, Shoes Inc. They have recently noticed a worrisome decline in sales of their most popular sandal. As many marketing teams would do, they conduct focus groups to uncover the root cause of the issue, and determine they need to update the sandal's design. But a week after the launch of their new shoe, they realize there are two major issues: 1) a competitor released a similar shoe three weeks ago, and 2) customers have been posting negative reactions to the new design on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram -- it seems many customers are confused by the buckles on the new sandal.
So, what went wrong?
First, Shoes Inc. was slow to identify the issue. They weren't aware of a problem until the sales numbers came in -- a lagging indicator of the product's success.
Second, they were slow to bring the new shoe to market. Because they spent a few months (and thousands of dollars) on focus groups, a competitor beat them to the punch and released a similar product. Now, Shoes Inc. will be playing catch-up to differentiate their new sandal against their competitor.
Third, they missed an opportunity to educate their customers. Had they been alerted to the social media backlash more quickly, they could have tweaked the design of the shoe or adjusted their marketing messaging to highlight the benefits of the new buckles.
According to Entrepreneur.com, 72% of all new products fail to meet revenue targets. (Unfortunately for Shoes Inc., their new sandal will likely suffer this fate.) The high rate of failure is due, in part, to uninformed decision-making. Social media intelligence can fill in the information gaps, and has the added benefit of taking place in real time. Sales numbers and satisfaction scores tell you what happened months ago. Focus groups and surveys tell you how a portion of your audience felt a few weeks ago. Analyzing social media trends tells you how your audience feels right now.
Social media insights can guide decision-making in two key ways:
Social media can yield insights on how your competitors are performing. In its most basic form, it can compare two brands in the same industry, such as airlines or banks. A more advanced distilling of conversations can lead to insights around new entrants that might disrupt more established product categories (such as the iPad in relation to PCs, or Flip video cameras in relation to traditional camcorders).
At the beginning of your research process, social media insights can spark new ideas to research further. For example, you might discover that a certain segment of your audience uses your product in an unexpected way, or that you have an entire target audience you weren't aware of. Through analysis of their social media data, a major beverage company learned that one of their products was being used by extreme sports athletes. They then conducted more research to determine whether this segment was valuable enough to target with specific marketing campaigns.
Smart social media management and listening software can help your brand uncover market opportunities by understanding the emotions and needs consumers associate with your brand. They use natural language processing to analyze unstructured data, turning the never-ending and disorganized onslaught of posts, tweets, and comments into actionable market insights. These tools let you understand where you and your competitors stand in the minds of your consumers, providing clarity into trends across the entire social landscape -- in real time. Learn more about how social media management software can provide the business intelligence you need to be successful.
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