Social media can be a fantastic source of data. It can tell you what your audience is thinking. It can predict how well future promotions will perform. It can give you insights into your competitors’ minds. It can help you shape your business.
Fortune 500 companies spend millions of dollars a year on social media research. Fortunately, you can use social media to shape your plans as well – without having to spend an arm and a leg.
Here are five free (or inexpensive) ways to gather intelligence on social networks:
Method #1: Paid Ads Split Tests
This method is often used by publishers to choose book titles. If you’re naming a website, a product or a brand, this strategy can give you objective data on what name people respond better to.
Create a campaign in Facebook ads. Create two ads that are 100% identical, except for one variation. The variation is the headline or the destination URL. Use two names that you want to test. Then, watch the click through rate. The higher CTR, the better people respond to that name.
Now you have real numbers to back up your name choices, instead of just hunches.
Method #2: Tweet Searching
Wondering what people think about a particular trend? Head over to Twitter and do a search.
For instance, let’s say Company X released a new product called ABC. Go to Twitter and type in “ABC.” What are people saying? Are they impressed, or are they disappointed? People’s sentiment can inform blog posts you might write or even future products you might create.
Method #3: Insights & Stats
Watch your Facebook insights data. Watch your Google Analytics data.
In particular, look at how people respond to specific topics. Do certain subjects get higher virality rates? What do people tend to like, comment or share? Are there certain topics that seem like duds?
Use these responsiveness indicators to gain insight into what your audience cares about.
Method #4: Ask Pointed Questions
Believe it or not, people on social media love answering questions. If they’re a fan on your page, chances are they want to participate in conversations with you.
Ask your audience questions. Not only does this give you more information about your audience – it also helps build your relationship with them.
Method #5: Spy on Your Competitors
Bookmark all of your competitors’ pages. Every once in a while, visit those pages and see what people are saying. Are they praising a certain blog post? Complaining about a certain product? How are your competitors doing their promotions?
See what’s working for your competitors and steal those strategies. Avoid the mistakes they’re making. If your competitors are already testing out different strategies, don’t re-invent the wheel – just spy on them. See what works and copy it, instead of starting from square one.