In the first part of this series (Using Digital Media and Social Media for a Product Launch), I set up a foundation of listening tools to help uncover and start a digital search. This post builds on that to round out some of the basics for getting underway in doing digital market research.
- use Twitter search – Even if you aren’t on Twitter yet (more on that in a moment), you can still use the search tool to peer into the conversation. Twitter’s basic search tool isn’t that effective. Instead, use Twitter’s advanced search. Here, you can configure your search pretty specifically.
For example, restricting results to include words, exclude words, searches just mentioning a specific hashtag , and – oddly – results that use a smiley face or frown face.
- When I’ve explained this to people, most scoff at that. But when I tell them to search for a competitor’s name and a frown face, I tell them that those results are potential leads. The scoffing stops.
- One other option you can select is ‘only show results that have links’. This is pretty powerful to see what other people are saying (and what else and where else) they are reading about a topic. And the best part? Once you fine-tune these results, you can push them to an RSS aggregator (see the previous post).
- create a Twitter account, add a photo, a bio, and a URL – Now that you’ve reaped the benefits of Twitter search, why not join Twitter and start interacting? Joining is painless (you’ll need a username, password, and an email address – like any web service these days). But don’t stop there. Part of what makes Twitter useful is connecting the right people. Take a few moments to complete the bio, add a website, and add a picture. I describe why that’s important in a post I wrote about Twitter follower counts. Then, jump in. You can use www.Twitter.com (open it in a separate browser tab and check it occasionally), or use a tool like Seesic, Tweetdeck, or the many others that do the same thing.
- finding people on Twitter that matter (to you) – Once you get going on Twitter, you’ll want to follow people that are talking about what’s important to you. A good way is to monitor some keywords, as outlined above. Another way is to use directories, like Twello and WeFollow. You can scan people’s bios and such to understand quickly if they are worth following. Once you really get humming, you can consider using a service like Topify to make each new interaction worthwhile. Another tool to consider is BlastFollow. The site name is a little broadcast-y for me, but the service description is powerful: enter a hashtag (e.g., from a conference or current event), and follow all of those people en masse.
- Be warned, though: Blast Follow doesn’t use the now-current (and preferred) OAuth method of connecting Twitter to a third-party application. Instead, it asks you to log in with a username and password. I suggest temporarily changing your Twitter password to something else, use the Blast Follow tool, and then change your password back. Security aside, the tool is a good one: mass follow people who are talking about a topic that’s interesting to you. You can always go back and un-follow people who no longer tweet about things that interest you.
- use word clouds – Once you get into the Twitter groove, it becomes easier to scan tweets or groups of people for relevant terms. Looking at the other words people use with your tracked terms is important, too (see the ‘child’ note in my point about using Google’s Wonder Wheel). A free (and funky) word-cloud generator (like Wordle) is great for this.Push a URL or page through this engine, and out pops a word cloud, with the size representing frequency of use. Quickly and visually, you have an idea of what the conversation (Twitter feed) or page (blog, site) is all about. I previously wrote about this in a bit more detail here, and even provided instructions and an example.
- use adword and keyword planning resources – I often get asked this where I work (“How do you go about finding the right keywords?”). So I wrote a post about using keyword planning resources as well. Some of that post has what’s mentioned here, but that post also has links to a few other resources that are definitely worth checking out, including adword and keyword planning tools.
- find and participate in intelligent discussions – LinkedIn is “the Facebook for the business world”. It’s also the modern day Rolodex. It’s also a great place to ask and answer questions, as well as participate in discussions in themed groups. Search for groups based on title and keywords. Join, listen, and participate. Look at answers and questions, and look to see who is making those contributions (vice presidents? individual contributors? how do those roles map to your customer acquisition plan and target market?).
- questions and answers – Continuing above with LinkedIn, visit the Answers section and search for a keyword that relates to your business. Change the display to open questions only
, and search for one you can answer. Do this twice a week (or more, if you have time). This starts to build your credibility. As you answer questions, that gets posted on your LinkedIn page under activity. People also get the choice to mark a particular answer as ‘best’. If you consistently provide good feedback and answers for people, you’ll start to get noticed. Quora is fast becoming a go-to place for intelligent Q-and-A. Consider spending a few minutes every other day there to research terms, answer questions, and cultivate a community.
- webinars – Webinars have become cost-effective ways of essentially giving sales pitches or product demonstrations. Some are overused and boring, but there are still gems out there. Look to other webinars as a way to see where people are congregating, how people are positioning what it is that your company does, how the space or industry is viewed, and the like. Here is a list of 100+ places that offer free on-line learning (some in the form of webinars) to help you find those resources. Here’s another compendium of just webinar listings.
- advanced play: creating a custom search engine – Here’s a really great article by ReadWriteWeb on how to set up a social media cheat sheet for any search topic. This will take a modest amount of upfront work, but the benefits are great. You’re essentially limiting your search of things to a smaller list of pre-determined sites (rather than the entire Internet).
The next post in this series will focus on outposts… or, leaving home and venturing out.
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