Using Social Media for B2B Market Research

Lynda St-Arneault – February 2, 2011

Social Media allows people to connect with various coveted targets with relative ease and low cost. Companies can share info directly with their prospects and clients in order to validate concepts, design new products, and analyse certain competitors. In order to monitor what is being said about a brand or a product, technological tools (free or not) with various levels of performance, are now accessible to all. There is something for everything!

However, do all these tools and all these ‘social spaces’ create a false illusion if control? Do they create a false illusion of the validity of the information obtained from social networks for those that aren’t experts in research?

I believe that social media are an excellent source of complementary data, or a prelude to “traditional” marketing research methods. Additionally, in certain cases, and in order to address certain research objectives, they can be extremely useful, and even the only ones that could be as efficient in terms of the quality / price ratio. Of course, in all cases we have to make sure of the reliability and validity of the obtained information.

In my opinion, where social media becomes truly interesting is in exploratory research. Through tools designed for that purpose and through keywords, we can gather comments, opinions, or client critiques that would be impossible to get through traditional ‘administering a questionnaire’ methods. Why?

  • It’s impossible to think of all the possible individual cases that can occur when the data collection tools are being designed.
  • It’s impossible to find the same level of spontaneity in focus groups or in individual interviews as we find on social media platforms.

In both cases we’re forced to work with discussion guides (be they formal or semi-structured), in other words, the respondents are forced to conform to the structure of the questionnaire.

Social media and the monitoring tools that go with them, can very well serve to identify and evaluate tendencies and thusly consolidate information for the R&D department during product development phases.

To sum up, the usage of social media is an undeniable advantage when it comes to ‘listening’ to the conversations that surround the strategic elements of a company’s environment. It’s essential to be able to use them methodically and to apply the same rigour as in traditional market research. Falling into the trap of ‘easy research’ is a lure that awaits many companies. Stay informed of the various tools available on the Internet, and remember that two things are essential: the validity and the reliability of the data.





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