Social media offers a goldmine of information that brands can tap for market research and product development.
Companies were once content to research customer preferences through interviews, focus groups and surveys. But they now find that social media analytics provides many advantages over those traditional methods.
Advantages of Social Media Analytics for Product Development
Faster. Social media analytics can produce data in hours or days, as opposed to weeks or months for conventional research methods. Releasing a product that meets the customer’s needs months before competitors creates a definitive advantage.
More accurate. Because information gathered is unprompted, it is more likely to reveal customers’ true feelings. Customers tend to write online reviews and social media comments immediately after using a product. Focus group participants might have used the product a month or two before they’re interviewed. Their memories are not as fresh.
More affordable. Social media analytics can produce reports at a fraction of the cost of conventional research methods.
Greater reach. Social media analytics can easily access a wider geographical range of customers. A company based in Boston, for instance, might interview customers mostly in the Boston area but can expand that reach through social media analytics.
Segment audiences. Social media analytics tools can filter data based on demographics, geography and sentiment to provide detailed analysis and insights
Analyze competitors. Companies can also monitor conversations surrounding competitors’ products. They can take care to avoid similar issues that prompt complaints and quickly emulate features that elicit praise from consumers. They can also watch for sudden increases in social media activity which may indicate a new product introduction or new product features causing major satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
Uncover hidden gems. Social media analytics can reveal unexpected customer needs and even hidden gems, say Artem Timoshenko, an assistant professor of marketing at Kellogg School of Management, and John Hauser, a marketing professor at MIT Sloan, who analyzed online reviews about oral care products.
Many customers cite obvious needs, but others brought up less expected needs, such as knowing how long to spend on various parts of their mouth during their oral-care routine, they write in The Marketing Leader’s Guide to Analytics and Artificial Intelligence. That can lead to product ideas, such as toothbrushes that beep at timed intervals. Comments can reveal a hidden gem like an important need not met by existing products.
Their research suggests that social media analytics can completely replace interviews and focus groups, at least for some categories, they say.
How to Use Social Media Analytics for Product Research
Establish goals. New information might be interesting, but if it doesn’t match your business goals or your buyers, it’s not an insight you can use. Start with the business challenge. Base your approach on the business challenge your organization is trying to solve and what you hope to gain.
Consider the platforms. Determine the demographics of your target audience and the platforms they frequent most.
Automated sentiment analysis. While automated sentiment analysis is cheaper and faster for large amounts of data, human analysis is more accurate and is capable of uncovering valuable insights. For brands with relatively modest numbers of mentions, human analysis offers a more affordable option.
Quantitative vs qualitative data. Quantitative research usually precedes the quantitative research of human analysis. A company might first compile numbers of positive and negative comments associated with a product, and then delve into details with qualitative research. Analyzing the numbers isn’t enough; reading content of social media posts is critical to tease out consumer insights and suggestions.
Break down silos. Spreading data across department silos ensures that all areas of the organizations can access the wealth of information. Centralized repositories of social media monitoring data allow HR, finance, administration, sales, product management, security, and IT departments, as well as marketing and PR, to access the data
Choose the right tool. Learn how to research social media analytics vendors to find the most appropriate service for your needs. Many social analytics tools provide superficial data. The best social media analytics services can combine automated sentiment analysis with human review and can customize their services to your needs. Be sure to take advantage of free trial offers.
Employ Boolean searches. By including punctuation and words like AND, OR, NOT, Boolean searches improve the quality of data collection, uncover mentions of your brand and exclude irrelevant results.
Make the benefits last. Don’t just set up a one-off analytics project or tool. Make sure the right conversations flow continually to the right stakeholders. Make social monitoring and measurement part of normal data gathering practices so that insights gained continue to help you achieve business objectives.
Bottom Line: Social media analytics offer an excellent tool for product development. More companies now turn to social media analytics to develop new products or improve current products.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.