“The world is being re-shaped by the convergence of social, mobile, cloud, big data, community and other powerful forces. The combination of these technologies unlocks an incredible opportunity to connect everything together in a new way and is dramatically transforming the way we live and work.” -Mark Benioff
We have so much data available to us at any given moment - whether it be social data or sales data, qualitative or quantitative data, structured or unstructured data - whatever data it may be be, the question becomes, how do we use it? As Benioff suggests, how do we "connect everything together" to unlock opportunities?
With social data, there are four key ways to connect it to your primary research efforts:
#1 - Listen
Social media should be treated like a conversation with a wise, important person. You should listen more than you talk! By listening, you can find out what customers are saying about your product. Perhaps you will find out about design flaws that should be improved or alternate, unintended uses for the product that should be leveraged or promoted.
#2 - Engage
Like any good conversation, it should be a two-way communication, you might have to start the conversation with something interesting and engaging, such as, "What do you love/hate about product x?" This is where you practice your listening skills and let them know you're listening! Most likely, customers will have suggestions about how to improve the product. By involving customers in the design process, you will uncover pain points and unmet needs, which will become hypotheses to test in primary research.
#3 - Monitor Competitors
While you're listening to and engaging your own customers, you also want to monitor your competition to see how they're engaging their audience. You should stay aware of what their customers are saying about their products, the features they like, and where they might be lacking. Listening in on competitors' channels will also help you stay aware of any coverage they are receiving. For example, they might be receiving a lot of press for "new feature" that you've already had built-in to your product.
#4 - Track Trends
Social data should be used to identify and quantify trends. Both internal and external social data should be analyzed. External data analysis will include tracking current popular posts or topics through hashtag searches on Twitter or using a tool like Tagboard to see what's trending. Internal data should be used to measure the impact of marketing events, such as new advertising campaigns, new product launches, etc.
Ultimately, social media data should be regularly monitored, interpreted, and used to inform and validate traditional primary research. Social data can be used up-front, to develop hypotheses and inform research design, or used post-research, to validate findings. By listening and engaging customers, monitoring competitors, and tracking trends, your business will be on track to connect business intelligence to business needs and unlock opportunities.