The internet is chockablock full of data, and social media is no exception.
The digital world experienced spectacular growth in 2016, with a new Digital in 2017 Global Overview report from We Are Social revealing that more than half of the world’s population now uses the internet. What’s more, nearly 2.8 billion people around the world now use social media at least once a month, and more than 91% of them do so via mobile devices.
That’s an awful lot of data flying around in the ether. Think about it: almost half a billion (482 million) new social media users signed up over the course of 2016. Think about all the tasty crumbs of digital information that are used to build a personal profile, and how they can be gathered to conduct wide-scale audience research.
If that sounds kind of dodgy to you, you need to change your mindset about customized marketing content. It doesn’t have to be sleazy or invasive. The advent of social media has changed all that. The key thing it offers is real personalization.
By real personalization, I mean content campaigns that actually evoke a positive, emotional reaction from their target audiences because they speak to them, not at them.
And how do you figure out what speaks to, not at, your target audience?
Well, you research them using social media data, aka, by conducting a thoughtful bit of social media research.
Tell me more about this social media research…
Social media data is freely available and in serious abundance.
Every single minute of every single day:
- Facebook users like approximately 4,166,667 posts.
- Twitter users send approximately 347,222 tweets.
- YouTube users upload approximately 300 hours of new videos.
- Snapchat users share approximately 284,7722 snaps.
Check out this colourful (and slightly intimidating!) infographic.
Put simply, there has never been such a huge amount of freely available information about people and how they consume information until now.
So how do I use social media research?
It depends a bit on what business goals you want to achieve – if you’re launching a product, the way you use data from social media may be a little bit different to how you would use it if you were communicating with an existing audience.
In basic terms of research, you can use social media research to:
- Build buyer personas
Social media is full of demographic and user interest data that you can use to develop your buyer personas. What’s a buyer persona, you ask? Well, a buyer persona is essentially a snapshot of your ideal customer that you can use to brainstorm the right marketing strategies. Here’s an example buyer persona template you can use:
Now, in order to develop a really good and comprehensive buyer persona, you’re going to need to answer important questions about your customer’s financial situation, personal life, interests, and problems. The easiest way to do this is to look at your current customers’ data from social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and this is where social media research comes in.
- Develop a unique selling proposition
In order to succeed in the digital marketing world, you need to stand out from your competitors. Social media gives you an opportunity to analyze your competitors’ strategy and sneakily check out what’s working and what isn’t. This can help you develop your own unique selling proposition as well as develop a clear picture of what not to do!
- Find powerful influencers
If you want your marketing content to be found online, then you’re going to need the help of influencers. These are the people (on social media or off) who can promote your content to a wide audience and give it more reach. Finding influencers who have an audience that would be interested in your business can be hard… unless, that is, you take advantage of the wealth of data available on social media.
- Discover ways to improve your marketing strategy
Lastly, and probably most importantly, social media research can allow you to understand how your current audience is responding to your marketing strategy. Using social media analytics, you can determine what content types your target audience prefers and what doesn’t resonate. Then you can adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.
The same goes for audience surveys. You can easily put together a social media poll for your followers to gain more insights on what they want/need from you and your business. This is a double win because it’s a fun, interactive activity for them where they feel their feedback is heard.
Can you break it down for me?
Sure! Let’s start with the biggest fish in the pond: Facebook.
Facebook is one of the most powerful social media research tools out there. The platform is easily the world’s most popular and has been collecting a bank of information about its users since it started, including their location, age, marital status, likes and dislikes, and on-site conduct.
You get access to all of this using Facebook Audience Insights. This nifty tool allows you to analyze and create your own custom audiences based on all Facebook users or just those already connected with your page.
When you first visit Audience Insights, Facebook will invariably ask you which group you want to analyze. If you’re in the process of developing buyer personas, focus on the people who currently like your page.
You can also glean helpful information about interest data based on past purchase behavior as well:
If you’re looking to survey your audience, you can use Facebook’s preferred poll app to create one-question polls, customer satisfaction surveys, timeline hashtag polls, and more.
Okay, how about Twitter?
Twitter has something similar called Twitter Analytics which allows you to analyze your tweets to better understand your followers and the type of content that resonates most with them.
Head to your Account Home to find a report card of your top-performing tweets from month to month. This is also a good place to search for helpful influencers in your network.
Twitter also offers its own audience insights feature that you can use for social media research that’s quite similar to the one offered by Facebook. You can find it in the Analytics drop-down menu, as below.
This data provides a fantastic way to build your buyer personas and develop ads for a very targeted audience.
Also, don’t forget about Twitter Trends. It’s another feature built right into Twitter that allows you to find relevant conversations to capitalize on with your content marketing. Plus, the Twitter Search function can be used to find and test out new hashtag ideas, and monitor social conversations around different topics.
All of this is solid gold when it comes to flawless social content development.
In addition, Twitter makes it easy to poll your audience for insights. All you have to do is:
- Click the Tweet button in the top navigation bar.
- Click on the Add Poll icon.
- Type your poll question in the compose box.
And voila! You’ll start getting real-time insights from people who are already interested in your business.
Now tell me about LinkedIn
Okay, so if you go to your company’s LinkedIn Page and click on the Analytics tab, you’ll find some pretty handy information that other social media platforms don’t provide, like the seniority of followers within their company and which industries your followers work in.
In a similar way to Facebook Audience Insights and Twitter Insights, you can also see which content is performing best based on comments, shares, and clicks.
One super interesting feature LinkedIn Analytics offers is a detailed breakdown if your following is organic vs. acquired. This means you can find out which (and how many) followers you gained with your advertising efforts.
Like Facebook, Instagram offers insights into your audience’s behavior on its platform. You can also use it to see how specific posts performed through the following data points:
- Website clicks
- Video views
Use this data to improve your Instagram content to resonate more with your followers.
Instagram also offers a complete demographic analysis of your current followers based on their location, gender, and age.
It’s pretty amazing. This information can help you determine what kind of people your business attracts and really bulk up the detail in your buyer personas.
Anything else I should know?
While social media platforms today offer a lot in the way of research and analytics tools, there are plenty of great third-party tools you probably don’t want to miss out on, like:
- Followerwonk: A popular Twitter analysis tool you can use to get even more insights about your audience. It helps you break down your follower demographics and compare accounts to help you target new influencers.
- Socialbakers or Simply Measured: Both tools help you to learn more about your Instagram data.
- Fanpage Karma: This tool analyzes your competitors’ accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites. It provides free (and discreet!) reports covering their engagement, growth, content sources, keywords and more.
- Klear: An influencer research tool designed for Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and a few other platforms, Klear allows you to search over 500 million social profiles and categories to find the perfect influencers to help grow your business.
- BuzzSumo: No social media tool list would be complete without this baby. BuzzSumo makes it easy to see which content pieces are getting the most buzz across various social platforms. With a paid account, you can even identify influencers based on what kind of content they like to share already.
These are just a few of the many third-party social media research tools out there. New ones are popping up all the time. But basically, any way in which you want to slice and dice social media data is possible with one tool or another.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and others, offer immeasurable insights about your target audience… and you can freely access those insights to improve your brand messaging and marketing strategy.
So why wouldn’t you?
Using the points in this guide, you can start benefitting from social media research to drive your business’ bottom line. Hopefully it’s given you a rough idea of where to start.
I’d be keen to hear exactly what you think in the comments below.