How To Use Social Media For Market Research

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As marketers, it’s our job to know our target audience’s needs and preferences. It’s why we conduct market research every year to better understand what our customers want and uncover new business opportunities. But traditional market research is no longer enough now that consumer preferences and market dynamics can change overnight.

While focus groups and annual surveys are still useful touchpoints, they reveal little about current events or trending topics among consumers. Social media is overflowing with these in-the-moment insights—it’s market research on steroids. That’s why 93% of business leaders say social media data and insights will be their company’s primary source of business intelligence.

But this dynamic and rich data source hasn’t been fully harnessed. You need to use social media market research to uncover critical customer, competitor and industry insights to maintain an accurate pulse on your market while keeping costs low.

What is social media market research and why is it valuable?

Social media market research is the practice of gathering historical and real-time data from social media channels to improve your business. It gives you critical insights from qualitative data (comments and posts) and quantitative metrics (likes and shares).

While it can be done natively, intelligent tools driven by artificial intelligence, like Sprout, make the process of gathering social intelligence:

  • Cost-effective: It’s more affordable than traditional methods like surveys and focus groups that can cost thousands of dollars depending on the size and complexity of the research project.
  • Quick: Where traditional market research takes time, social media updates in real-time for immediate results, anytime you want.
  • Comprehensive: With over 4.76 billion social media users in 2023, gather vast and diverse social listening data to analyze conversations and extract more accurate insights about your brand and the entire industry.

Sprout enables you to research different social platforms at the same time and analyze the information in one centralized platform to inform data-driven marketing strategies across the organization.

Screenshot of the Sprout Listening platform featuring an example of the competitor view

The benefits of using social media for market research

According to The Harris Poll data in The 2023 State of Social Media report, 90% of business leaders agree that their company’s success will depend on how effectively it can use social media data and insights to inform business strategy.

Social media market research is the tool that will enable you to harness the data that will transform every part of your business, including:

Becoming more customer-centric

Our report also revealed that 91% of business leaders said social insights had an impact on gaining a better understanding of their customers. The granular insight social media marketing research provides into your consumer base helps you develop customer-centric strategies that build stronger relationships, increase retention and improve your growth rate.

Managing brand reputation

Social media research gives you data-driven insights into how your target audience perceives your brand. That’s why 94% of business leaders look at social media insights to build and manage brand reputation.

Keeping ahead of competitors

Ninety-two percent of business leaders say social media insights help improve their brand’s competitive positioning. Social data taps into deep competitor insights, such as what people like about competing brands and how customers respond to them. All of which guide how you can differentiate yourself from the pack.

Predicting future trends and filling market gaps

Market research through social listening helps you know where consumers are going next, per 89% of business leaders, who said that social insights impacted how they predict future trends. Social media market research gives you a holistic view of the market so you can identify emerging trends and plan long-term and short-term growth campaigns. And so, enabling you to take advantage of market gap opportunities and expand your market share in a focused way.

Optimizing your business with less spend

Seventy-six percent of business leaders say that social media insights have positively impacted moving their businesses forward with reduced budgets. With close to five billion people on social media, it provides a cost-effective way to magnify your brand, engage with customers and reach out to new audiences. It helps brands personalize campaigns and customer care more precisely and at scale.

8 insights you can glean from social media market research

Social listening data is a valuable source of market intelligence. But with all that raw data at your disposal, it can be challenging to sift through the noise to capture what is truly important and can make a real impact on your business strategy.

Here are eight actionable insights you should pull from your social media market research and how to find them.

Graphic that lists the eight insights that can be extracted from social listening data covered in the article.

1. Audience intent to know what customers want

Social media market research gives you valuable insights into customer intent when they mention you or your competitors. Deep dive into social listening data to get to know your audience on a personal level, from how they feel about certain topics to what influences their purchase decisions.

How to find it: Build out your community management strategy using social networks. Also, leverage platforms like Reddit to know what your audience is talking about and respond to threads directly. Capabilities like Sprout’s social media engagement tool help you capture customer sentiment from social listening across networks and seamlessly adjust your social strategy accordingly, in one place.

Screenshot of the Sprout Listening platform featuring an example of the performance engagement measurement

2. How customers use your products and services

Social media chatter gives you an insider’s look into how your customers are using your product and services and what new opportunities are out there for you.

By researching their brand and products through social listening, Lodge Cast Iron learned how customers actually use their cookware. They discovered a new segment of customers, vegans, which led them to create more vegan recipes to better engage with them and their interests.

How to find: Search for your brand and the name of your product on social platforms like Twitter or Instagram to learn how customers actually use your goods and services. Sites like Reddit are also great to tap into customer feedback, including conversations and communities relevant to your brand or products. With a tool like Sprout Social, you can easily monitor all this data including branded keywords and phrases to stay up to date with what customers have to say.

3. What existing customers like and dislike about your brand

Social media listening tools help you understand what people like and dislike about your product and services. In fact, business leaders surveyed by The Harris Poll said that 42% of their company’s product development is influenced by social media data insights.

Customer comments are often not as simple as “I like [brand]” or “I don’t like [brand]”. Some are indirect, don’t tag your handle or misspell your brand name. Analyze all comments through sentiment analysis with a smart social media intelligence platform like Sprout to get a clear idea of what customers expect from you and distinct insights on how to address them.

Screenshot of the Sprout Listening platform featuring an example of the customer sentiment summary on an example topic

How to find: There are several ways you can find feedback about your brand. Search for branded keywords and phrases organically on social, or peruse the reviews section on platforms like Facebook, TripAdvisor and Google. Beyond these searches, your inbox is a great space to find customer feedback. It’s also a good idea to reach out to sales or customer service teams who hear directly from customers about their likes and dislikes.

4. Competitor intelligence to know where you stand

Insights from social media market research guide your competitor strategy for both short-term and long-term campaigns. In fact, 92% of marketers in The 2023 State of Social Media report say that social insights play a role in improving their brand’s competitive positioning.

Understand your competitors’ content and ad strategy, track how the market responds to them and know where you are in terms of audience segmentation.

How to find: Identify your competitors and monitor their social presence across their different social channels. With Sprout Social, you can set up a competitive analysis report across various social networks including review websites, like Google My Business, to track competitor benchmarks and understand your customers’ attitudes toward the competition.

Screenshot of Sprout's Listening tool, featuring the competitive analysis view

5. What customers expect from you in the future

Consumers frequently take to social to share what they want from brands in the future. A brand may receive a request for a future store location or a coffee company might see comments asking for a specific roast or drink to come back on the menu. At Sprout, we often field Tweets from customers with new feature requests that we pass along to our product team for consideration down the road.

Screenshot of a customer expressing what they want from Sprout on Twitter

Another way to solicit feedback about what customers want from your brand is to simply ask. You’d be surprised how many people respond with their thoughts and ideas to a question published on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

How to find: One place to find this information is right in your inbox. With Sprout’s tagging capabilities, you can label and sort messages by type as they come through, making it easy to pass along product requests to the appropriate teams.

6. Trends your audience is interested in

Be attentive to market drivers and use them to catapult your brand strategy. Take how Netflix used the nostalgia marketing trend for their popular TV show, Stranger Things. The show capitalized on people’s fond memories of days past while using children as the main protagonists to cover a wide age segment.

To harness trends successfully, it’s important to map out your business objectives, data analysis plans and baseline metrics before you start scrolling for inspiration.

How to find: Explore social media networks and other tools like Google Trends to keep a pulse on what’s hot. Also, use Sprout’s listening tool to identify trends and topics in your industry and among customers through keywords. Uncover keywords and terms most used by your target audience and discover related topics frequently mentioned with any terms you’re currently tracking.

7. What content resonates with your audience

With millions of posts published on social daily, you need to be strategic to capture your audience’s attention. Take stock of your existing content to see what themes or content formats fuel your performance goals.

If in-feed video gets you more impressions than text posts, consider investing more in video production. If your goal is to drive conversations, refer to posts with high engagement (likes, comments or shares). And don’t be afraid to ask your audience directly what topics or social content they want to see from you.

How to find: Sprout’s Post Performance Report helps you break down the types of content you’ve published and identify which performed the best. For more granular insights, sort the data by impressions, engagement and clicks to determine what formats and themes are most effective on specific networks.

Screenshot of Sprout's cross channel analytics

8. Find who to partner with

Social media market research helps you find the right influencers or content creators to collaborate with. Insights can tell you if they match your brand values, have similar audience types and create content that consistently engages. Your co-creators can also play a key role in product development to expand your reach.

For example, Target offered influencer Tabitha Brown a first-of-its-kind deal following her first year working with the retailer. Their exclusive Tabitha Brown collections include clothing, swimwear, accessories, home and office products, food and kitchenware.

Screenshot of a TikTok video showing Tabitha Brown's vegan products in Target

How to find: Monitor collaborations to see how their content is performing and get insights to make tweaks to remain aligned with goals. Also, track your lead conversions and see if you are getting enough return on investment (ROI).

How to share social media market research findings org-wide

Social insights provide rich insights that benefit the whole org including product teams, customer care, sales and support.

To share your findings with these various teams, your data needs to present a holistic narrative and connect your data to company goals to highlight its true impact, without being complicated. This type of strategic data storytelling requires effective visualization elements like charts, graphs and word clouds that synthesize the data alongside other business intelligence. This enables all stakeholders to understand the larger picture, with insights from every key business channel.

Sprout creates presentation-ready charts and graphs that break down customer, competitor and industry insights from across social networks. Also, combine these insights with your Tableau data for a more comprehensive omnichannel view.

Screenshot of Sprout’s Reporting feature showing a comparative graph of competitor performance on Facebook

With these combined insights you can:

  • Track social KPIs org-wide and measure against benchmarks.
  • Share crucial product experience insights with the product development teams.
  • Inform marketing teams of any negative brand buzz.
  • Collaborate with the broader marketing teams to refine messaging and content marketing strategies.

Better research starts with social

When brands demonstrate they understand their customers’ wants and needs, they stand to strengthen their bottom line and develop customers for life. Thanks to social media market research, brands have access to fast and reliable insights that deepen their understanding of what their customers want and expect. From identifying new opportunities to improving customer relationships, data from social empowers you to make smarter decisions that contribute to your business goals.

Ready to turn your social data into valuable insights about your industry and customers? Download this worksheet to learn how to conduct quick and valuable market research in under 90 minutes.


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