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Social media has undoubtedly changed the way brands think about digital marketing. Just a few years ago, networks like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn played only a minor role in global marketing strategies. But as their user numbers have grown, so has their importance for digital marketing. Today, social media channels provide digital marketers with excellent market research opportunities.
How market research differentiates brands
Market research has always been an integral part of building a brand. Conducting market research means gathering information and learning more about your target market, identifying potential customer personas and evaluating how successful your product could be.
Market research also helps quantify product-market fit. Once your product or service is launched, brand teams can use research to verify that customers are receiving the messages they want to communicate.
With a company’s marketing goals, market research forms the basis of successful brand marketing strategies. In short, the importance of market research cannot be overestimated. Still, there are drawbacks. Traditional market research techniques, such as interviews and focus groups, can be time consuming. These tools can also be resource-heavy if the research is done thoroughly, forcing some brands to launch a marketing strategy based on hunches rather than data. Others limit the scope of their study in the hope that the findings may still be valid. Both options put brands at risk.
Related: The 7 Secrets to Truly Successful Personal Brands
Social media removes the limitations of market research
Social media platforms have all the tools needed to provide brands with answers to market research questions. Social media can provide insight into branding, content messaging, and creative design, and raise awareness of competitor activity and industry trends.
Much of this is made possible by the large number of potential customers brands have access through social media. Facebook alone has nearly three billion active users every month, which has been growing for nearly a decade. Instagram continues to gain ground, with currently around two billion active users.
Figures on the use of social media are expected to grow at least for the next few years. More than 4.26 billion people spent time on social media in 2021. Statisticians believe that this figure will rise to almost six billion within five years.
But social media can do more than provide user numbers. The companies behind Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok know a lot about their users, starting with demographics and including lifestyle preferences. These insights enable brands to access the right audience faster than ever before and at a lower cost.
Related: In a crowded field of emerging franchises, only the strongest brands thrive
Through social media channels, brands can access different layers of information about their industry, the brand itself, competitors, news coverage, and creative design.
1. Industry Insights
Using social media channels is an efficient way to assess industry trends in real time. Channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram make it easy to spot and isolate leading trends and changes in those trends. A few years ago, images caught the consumer’s attention. More recently, however, video-based channels like TikTok have reaffirmed the importance of video as a tool to connect with customers. Of course, brand teams may choose to ignore certain trends, but it’s still important to understand the drivers behind the industry.
In this context, industrial drivers are not just subjects or tools. Social media has created a relatively new digital marketing phenomenon: working with influencers. Identifying and working with the right influencers can be a critical driver of business growth.
Before the advent of social media channels, gathering comparable information required more time and in-depth analysis simply because the information was not as easily accessible.
2. Competitive Research
Social media has made it easier to conduct competitor research. Companies from virtually every industry sector have started embracing social media channels to connect with customers and partners. This makes it much easier to understand your competitors’ marketing strategies and analyze which marketing tactics and channels work best for them.
Tracking a competitor’s social media channels helps brands understand which audiences they are engaging with and what content they are ignoring. Brand teams gain a deeper understanding of the mindset of their competitors’ customers. By regularly monitoring these channels, you can clearly understand your competitors, their target groups and their marketing approach.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Competitive Research for Small Businesses
3. Brand positioning
Do your target audiences see your brand as you would like to be seen? Monitoring social media can help your marketing team answer this question quickly. Hashtags and search tools make it easy to assess how a brand is discussed without any of the lag associated with traditional market research methods.
By gaining instant insight, your team can adjust and correct the brand message faster than ever.
4. Content Posts and Design
A traditional approach to determining advertising messages may include A/B testing. While these types of market research are important for developing successful (traditional) advertising campaigns, they can be expensive and slow down the campaign.
Social media channels allow brands to test their content posts and design instantly with minimal cost. Brands get instant feedback from customers through likes and comments. Through a few posts it will become clear whether customers are more inclined to use images, videos or webinars, for example.
If a brand uses social media to generate sales, conversion numbers will quickly yield more tangible insights than A/B testing. Those insights can be applied directly to the ad content, allowing brands to simultaneously conduct market research and put their findings into practice.
Using social media channels for market research, brands learn about industry trends and competitor activities in real time. Brand teams can also assess brand perception, messaging and content design without delay, optimizing market research results and overall campaign performance.