How to Use Social Media for Customer Research

social media how toLooking for a low-cost way to conduct consumer research?

Social media can provide a free treasure trove of data about your customers.

With the right social media tools, you can learn what questions your customers have and which types of content they’re sharing.

This information will help you answer their questions, solve their problems and define your social media and content strategies.

In this post, you’ll learn how to quickly conduct research on social media and put it into action.

Find Out What Questions Your Customers Are Asking

Hearing the questions your prospective customers are asking and problems they’re facing can help you find new customers, support existing ones and outline a content strategy that will appeal to both.

The best products solve problems. If you can solve someone’s problem, they’ll be much more likely to check out your products, because they already trust you as an expert.

Here are three places to easily find which types of questions are being asked.

Twitter Search

Twitter Search is the perfect place to start looking for customer questions. Just search Twitter for your topic or niche and include a “?” in the search.

For example, searches for “Facebook marketing ?” or “yoga ?” will return any tweet with those keywords and a question mark.

twitter advanced search questions

Twitter's advanced search can surface users' questions on any topic.

From here, you can answer Twitter users’ questions with your industry expertise. Remember to be helpful, not self-promotional.

You’ll also find people with problems that your product or service can solve. In those cases, feel free to suggest your product. Make sure to provide helpful information, including why your solution is best.

Quora

Quora is the highest-quality question and answer (Q&A) site online. Technology and startups were the first topics to gain traction, but Quora now has great content on everything from cooking to film.

To see how Quora works, start by typing a question into the search bar. You’ll see previous questions that match yours as well as a link to add a new question. Just click on an existing question for an example of how the site works.

quora question search

You can type questions directly into Quora's search bar.

Next, type your business’s main keyword or niche into the search bar and find the most relevant topic, not question.

quora topic search

Search for a topic on Quora to find all of the related questions.

Click that topic to navigate to the topic page. From here, you’ll see all of the questions on a given subject. You can read answers from other users, contribute your own, follow the topic on Quora or set up an RSS feed of questions.

To set up an RSS feed, just add “/rss” to the end of the URL. For example, the topic page for yoga is http://www.quora.com/Yoga. The RSS feed for this page is http://www.quora.com/Yoga/rss. Now you can automatically monitor a Quora topic from your RSS feed reader and contribute where appropriate.

The questions you find here can help you define your business offering and improve your marketing strategies.

LinkedIn Answers

LinkedIn Answers may be the best social media research site for B2B companies. The Q&A section of LinkedIn’s site has over 20 categories of questions including Business Travel, Management and Technology.

linkedin answers

Use LinkedIn to answer business questions and find B2B customers.

As on Quora, you can see who has answered each question and click on their profile to learn more about them.

You can answer questions publicly or reply privately. Make sure to provide a useful, topical answer. If you don’t, your answer may be flagged as an advertisement or connection-building spam.

LinkedIn Answers has a scoring system called Expertise. Whenever a questioner chooses your answer as the best one, you gain expertise points. With enough points, you will rank on a category’s Experts chart.

Getting ranked as an expert will help users interested in that category find you. Don’t answer questions just for the points. Contributing helpful information and providing a great answer is the best way to market your business on LinkedIn.

Find Out What Content Your Customers Are Sharing

Your social media content strategy should be driven by the overlap between your expertise and your customers’ needs and interests.

By learning which types of content your customers are sharing, you can create content that will get shared. I’m not suggesting that you copy content. Instead, you should take inspiration from the type and tone of the most shared content.

Are people sharing how-to blog posts, funny memes or instructional videos? Is the most shared content authoritative or friendly and conversational?

With this research, you’ll learn what your audience is most interested in sharing and understand the type of content you need to create.

Here are three places to easily find which types of content are being shared.

Twitter

Start by browsing all of the tweets for your target keywords. Observe how people are talking about your niche and what they’re sharing. Do you see a lot of links? Tweets with photos attached? Remember that Twitter skews towards sharing article links.

You can focus on just the content people are linking to using Twitter’s advanced search. Add “filter:links” to the end of your search query. For example, search for “yoga filter:links” to see all tweets containing the word yoga and a link.

twitter advanced search filterlinks

Using Twitter's advanced search, you can filter for tweets containing a link.

Using the Discover tab, you can find the top content among the Twitter users you follow. If you’re following users in your target market, you’ll see the most popular news articles and blog posts.

twitter discover tab story

A sample story from Twitter's Discover tab shows an article that was tweeted by five different accounts.

The Discover tab is a great way to stay up to date with the latest news in your industry. Being current will help you produce timely, shareable content for your followers. Make sure to comment on this news and offer your perspective.

If you’re not already following users in your niche, you can find accounts to follow on WeFollow or Listorious.

Pinterest

Pinterest, the online pinboard, is a great source of visual inspiration. You’ll be able to see which types of images are repinned and liked the most. Depending on your topic, you may find photographs, graphics, instructions, cartoons or memes to be the most popular medium.

Then you can create images for Pinterest or other visual social networks like Tumblr or Facebook.

The Pinterest home page will show you the most popular content, regardless of topic. This view is helpful for understanding what works across Pinterest, but it doesn’t show you what’s best for your niche.

For more specific content, use the Categories menu to view popular pins in the most relevant vertical. Even if a category is too broad for your business, you’ll start to see what works for your type of customer.

pinterest categories

Choose one of Pinterest's categories to find popular content. Categories include everything from Geek to Tattoos to Weddings.

For the most accurate view, search for your keywords to see the most popular and relevant pins.

pinterest search results

Search for your keywords on Pinterest to find out which types of pins are the most popular.

Facebook

Searching for popular pieces of content is more difficult on Facebook than on Twitter or Pinterest. Facebook does offer a search option for public posts, but they aren’t sorted by popularity.

Instead, you’ll need to go directly to the Facebook pages of your competitors and other businesses, publications and organizations in your industry. You only need to focus on pages with lots of fans because they’ll have enough data to see popularity trends.

Browse the top Facebook pages in your niche to see which posts are liked, commented on and shared the most. If you don’t know much about the competition, find one or two pages that you do know. Then see which pages they like. You’ll find these likes in a box near the top right column of the page’s Timeline.

facebook page likes

Find related Facebook pages by browsing the Likes box near the top right of any page's Timeline.

Look closely at the most shared content on 5-10 pages covering the same content as you. Are image posts being shared? Are fans responding to question posts? See which types of content are working best. Then create your own based on what people like.

Social network monitoring is the easiest way to learn more about your target customers. By seeing what questions they’re asking and what content they’re sharing, you can offer support, establish yourself as an industry expert, define your social media strategy and improve your products.

What do you think? How do you use social media to learn more about your customers? Share your experience in the comments box below.

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About the Author, Fred Perrotta

Fred Perrotta is a Marketing Manager at Udemy, where experts teach the world. Learn more about social media marketing at Udemy.com. Other posts by »




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  • http://fobusiness.info/ Focus On Business

    Not sure why I have never heard of Quora but I’m glad a read this post. Thanks.

  • http://strategy-keys.com/ David Willden

    Very helpful article!   Thank you Fred!   

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    No problem, David. Hope you can use some of the tactics for your business.

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  • http://twitter.com/job_tailor Denise Taylor

    Wow! That’s very helpful! Go and find your customers by what they are asking! Love it! 

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Thanks, Denise. It sounds obvious now but took awhile to figure out. Hope the post saved you some time.

  • http://www.michiganmobilewebsites.com/ MalinEDGE

    Fred, great stuff, much appreciated!

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Thank YOU for reading!

  • Sarah Bauer

    The Twitter tips are awesome! Twitter has really progressed from a strictly social platform to a layered information platform. The quality of conversations and information exchange will only get better and better if businesses and individuals adhere to that “helpful, not self-promotional approach.” 

    Cheers!
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Agreed. Now they just need some better tools for dealing with the firehouse of information.

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Thanks. Definitely check out Quora. The content is amazing. Quora is like Yahoo! Answers except the answers and helpful, intelligent, and often straight from the source.

  • http://www.ckwrites.com ckwrites2

    Wow – really a beautiful piece of research in its own right. Love how actionable your approach is. Can see it being useful for everything from developing personas to writing proposals. All you need is time. Thanks!

  • jameybrown

    Fred, 

    This was a genuinely helpful read. The Pinterest and Facebook insights were very solid, and the Twitter information is something we seem to always know, but forget to actually do! The searching capabilities within Twitter are astounding. Thanks for reminding me of this :)  

    Great read, Fred. 

    Cheers! 

    Jamey 

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Thanks, CK. Great point about developing personas. Even doing simple Twitter searches will show you dozens of PICTURES of your customers. Who do you see? Teens? Moms? Baby boomers? That’s your customer.

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Thanks, Jamey. Each new tools means a new set of capabilities and tactics. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but that’s where you can get ahead of the competition and find success.

  • Bruce Rasmussen

    Great article!  Would also refer your readers to Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto’s book SHIFT!, which talks about the 3 “sales triggers” ie things that happen to prospects/customers that start them on their buyer’s journey (ie they have a problem;  they’re dissatisfied with their current supplier;  change change roles/companies).  If we can listen for the sales triggers, then we’re on the spot to help the customer as they go on their buying journey.  This beats the usual situation where the customer only engages with the seller once they’re around 70% of the way through their buyers journey.

  • Sonali123srivastava

    Loved the article..Sure going to help me lot !! Many Thanks !!

  • http://www.engage-2012.com/ Mike

    Fred, thank you for this article. There are some really helpful stuff. In my opinion, this will really help bloggers who don’t know, what to write about. After reading this article, they can just conduct the social media research and they will have loads of ideas about what to write about that people will find interesting.

    Thanks again,

    Mike

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  • Vishal

    Very Nice Article

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  • http://knowledgence.com cedennis

    This article is proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks!  Thanks, this was very enlightening!  Arf!

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Thanks for the tip, Bruce. That’s the beauty of content marketing: you can find new customers by creating solutions to their problems.

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Glad it could be of help.

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Thanks, Vishal!

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    You win for best comment! 

  • http://www.brazilfifaworldcup2014.net Jerry Maestro

    Woohoo!!!! Awesome :-)

  • Samantha Neve

    Awesome article  -  have already checked out some of these suggestions. Thanks!

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Thanks, Samantha. Hope they were beneficial.

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  • http://www.businessbanter.com/ Shameer Shah

    Awesome post Fred! At my company we use social media for much of our customer research. We also provide customer service Q&A’s through social channels as it enables us to answer questions and forward to the masses as opposed to individual enquiries. Of course, there comes a time when you have to answer individual enquiries, but on the whole, this is fantastic to put into practice at a business of any size or nature. NIce post mate!

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  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Thanks, Shameer.

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  • Louisa

    Love the helpful and relevant insights in this article. Some great tips that I didn’t know about with social!
    Thanks!
    Louisa McClure
    Urban Fox – New Zealand

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Knowing is half the battle, Louisa. Thanks for leaving a comment!

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  • http://twitter.com/complexvisuals Marcie Giovannoni

    Another great way to monitor what your customers are saying is through social media aggregators, like Postano. Not only can monitoring what your customers are asking and saying be useful for brand and product insight, but it can be great for curating social media content for your brand. http://www.postano.com/solutions/for-monitoring/

  • Fiona

    Jeez, this was a light-bulb moment for me! I’m going to look into your suggestions right now. Thank you.

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  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Thanks, Fiona. Hope you find something useful!

  • http://jtadmanagement.com/ J.T. Advertising Management

    Excellent post. I have yet to try this tactic myself but will be interesting to see how it works for a B2B service related business as to one that is product focused.

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    For B2B, I’d think Twitter and Facebook would be the best solutions. Plus, LinkedIn, of course.

  • http://www.masseffect3.net/ Simon Lopez

    Nice one Fred, very informative idea. Keep on posting

  • http://www.tortugabackpacks.com/ Fred Perrotta

    Thanks, Simon. Will do.

  • http://callboxinc.com.au/ MaeganA

    Well written Fred. I guess, it’s need to create constant stream of new leads to become new customers for their business. Thanks for sharing this guides

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  • http://www.psdfileconversions.com/ Charlene James

    You’re so cool! I don’t think I have read a single thing like that before. So wonderful to find information on social media with genuine thoughts on this subject matter. 

  • http://www.jailbreakappletv.net/ Shamcey Suerpy

    You’re so cool! I don’t think I have read a single thing like that before. So wonderful to find somebody with genuine thoughts on this subject matter. 

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