Social Media Usage in Market Research and Forecasting

Abstract

This paper aims to explore and discuss how marketing research and forecasting can be executed using social media tool. In order to attain these objectives, the existing social marketing publications have been analyzed. In addition, marketing analysis within the industry have been incorporated in the study as part of the design/methodology or approach of attaining the set goals. From the findings, it is evident that the growth of social media has significantly affected the conventional marketing research and forecasting strategies. Over the past few years, the profession of market research has been transformed and altered by massive advancements in social media.

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For instance, consumer communication patterns have been altered by developments in social media. These have affected traditional research methods. Consumer subjects can no longer be reached as it used to be some decades ago owing to the rapid adoption of new communication channels such as emails and telephony. Consequently, better and improved research techniques have been spawned by social media. Nevertheless, both the old and current market research methods should be embraced by modern organizations in order to reap optimum benefits when forecasting marketing activities.

Introduction

Prevalence of social media in market research

Business organizations are currently increasing and improving their presence in social networking sites and social search engines by promoting their brands and products in social media. Marketing in social media may assist towards global positioning effort of an organization. It consequently plays a crucial role in the inbound marketing strategy of a firm. Integrating social media into a firm’s Inbound Marketing strategy is very effective in driving traffic to a company’s website and positively managing the online reputation of a given brand. In addition to creating visibility of an organization’s brand and content, social media platform also builds the authority and online reputation of a company by displaying social signals such as “Likes, Comments, Share, Pin it and Retweet”. These signals are also increasingly becoming important factors of improving the Search Engine Optimization of a company’s marketing website (Durkin, McGowan & McKeown, 2013).

From the outset, social media offers a robust platform for understanding the contemporary market. As much as the tool can be used to gather vital data from the market, it also presents numerous benefits as a marketing strategy. However, this study seeks to restrict itself to the forecasting and market research roles of social media. First, social media platform provides a wide visibility for a company’s market research content (Machin-Mastromatteo, 2012).

In other words, it is possible to reach a large number of respondents within a very short duration. It is also possible to build an organization’s authority as content editor. When compared to traditional methods of market research, social media avails the opportunity to edit contents swiftly without necessarily redrafting contents from scratch. As a marketing research tool, it has the capacity to strengthen the trust of consumers bearing in mind that the research data is made visible for everyone to see. Hence, it generates quality leads that an organization can use to gather vital data from the targeted market.

Second, social media has the capacity to create a firm engagement with customers owing to improved communication. Particularly, this becomes important when making market forecasts. In fact, social media allows a company to join the conversation while gathering pertinent information from the market regarding a brand or product. Intense dialogue between company representatives and customers usually improves the positioning of an organization’s website in search engines (Patino, Pitta & Quinones, 2012).

Eventually, social media can indeed increase understanding of the feelings and opinions of customers in regards to a particular brand or company’s product. Therefore, when this tool is used to gather market data, the probability of obtaining authentic feedback is quite high. In the course of gathering market information, brand awareness is equally increased.

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Lately, undertaking marketing research on social networks has been one of the fastest growing trends worldwide. It is a path of no return in terms of online marketing research and forecasting for contemporary organizations. Companies need to adapt to this new scenario (Schoen, Metaxas, Mustafaraj, Strohmaier & Gloor, 2013). Consumer approximation trend and creation of relationship ties in modern digital marketing found in social networks offer the ideal channel to create vital contact points. The growing importance and applicability of social media in market research explain the reason why there is an increasing number of companies resorting to online social networks. Social media is a major business platform as indicated in the chart below:

Top 10 Sectors by Share of U.S. Internet Time.
Top 10 Sectors by Share of U.S. Internet Time.

On the other hand, this trend brings injects new challenges since carrying out marketing research and forecasting in social networks are completely different from other forms of traditional research techniques that companies are accustomed in using (Foster, West & Francescucci, 2011). The disclosure in social media obeys its own mechanics which is more subtle and structured than that seen on sponsored links and search engines. It is important to note that that companies are aware of this difference and hence, they continually seek ways of adapting the new reality.

How marketing research and forecasting works in social networks

Marketing research in social media is a strategy which draws on major social networks as tools that promote a brand, product placements or services. In the case of social media marketing research, the main objective is precisely to understand the market in a better way (Weeks & Holbert, 2013). Through forecasting, a company can be in a vantage position to promote its products and services more effectively. When carrying out marketing research and forecasting in social networks, digital marketers make use of the tools offered by networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and others, depending on the case and the company’s operating segment (Branthwaite & Patterson, 2011).

Another feature of social media marketing research is relationship marketing, whereby the main objective in the first place is to create a point of contact with potential customers. The advertiser’s message can be introduced in a very subtle way so that consumers can share their views and comments. Unless a conversation is introduced, it might be cumbersome to understand and establish a market for a particular company’s brand or product.

The worth of investing in social media marketing research

It is no doubt that investment in marketing in social networks brings a number of benefits such as understanding the shifts in demand and supply and appreciating the tastes and preferences of consumers. However, the latter cannot be seen as a universal panacea to optimizing profits since several companies currently conduct market research and forecasting using social media. It should be taken as a communications channel that provides the much-need information for appraising the market (Forbes, 2013).

The greatest advantage of this market research option for online organizations is that it gives us a chance to approach the targeted audience in a more personal, focused and segmented manner. Through social media research and forecasting, management teams in organizations can effectively approach and meet consumers’ needs and desires in a more direct way (Koskan et al., 2014).

Forecasting the market: A medium to long-term strategy

One point that should be emphasized is that marketing research on social networks requires a period of maturation. Therefore, it is considered as a medium to long-term action since relationships and proper understanding can never be created overnight (Bolton et al., 2013). Therefore, managers and other organizational leaders should have a detailed plan of action to take, and be prepared for hard work because production of relevant content, and interaction are key concerns in this area.

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Another aspect that should be taken into consideration is the retention capacity provided by this marketing research strategy since these contacts create relationship ties that make marketing return on social networks to stand out as a digital marketing research strategy (Wang, 2012).

Strategic planning and marketing research in Social Media

Strategy is a way of thinking about the future through decision-making process. In any case, forecasting after conducting marketing research is a crucial part of strategic planning procedure that requires serious articulation. In a general sense, strategy and forecasting are key objectives and lines of action set out in business (Dickinger, Arami & Meyer, 2008).

Forecasting is a very helpful practice that curtails stiff market competition. Alternatively, the competitiveness of a firm is improved at the marketplace through proper strategic planning alongside forecasting. Hence, strategy requires planning. It equally demands sound management of actions needed for its execution.

Social media and the new consumer

If a robust market research is carried out through social media networks, it can assist in meeting the inherent purchase needs of a silent consumer (Turri, Smith & Kemp, 2013). Social media is not an independent entity that can flourish without the input of other components. However, it offers an unparalleled marketing research opportunity that may help organizations assists companies to be more productive. It also offers a starting point for marketing research tactics. Social media in itself is not self-reliant.

SWOT analysis and market research forecasts

Strategic planning brings the issue of strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats (SWOT) that a business entity may face both currently and in the future. Through marketing research forecasts, a business organization can appraise its current and future opportunities depending on the growing margin of social media feedbacks from the targeted market. After conducting market research through social media, managers can change the conversation based on the online feedbacks.

There are numerous possibilities of online networking tools from the Web that can be used to assess a broad segment of the market. These include WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube among others. Each tool has its merits and demerits. For example, blogs and videos are very useful in attracting and educating customers during the process of market research. The aforementioned tools can pass relevant and differentiated information as required by a firm. On the other hand, micro-blogs such as Twitter are excellent for improving customer service with interactions in real time alongside answering questions. Such instant interactions can indeed serve the much-needed role of obtaining regular feedbacks from the market (Lowrey, 2013).

The professional end of the market can also be targeted using a professional network such as LinkedIn. Although this network can be very useful in enhancing a brand, it also offers a platform for professionals to offers serious reviews on products or brands under research. A network like Facebook allows greater interaction between customers and brands (Fan Pages). As a result, researchers on the other end of the market can secure crucial details regarding market acceptability of a particular brand or product. Facebook and other social media platforms facilitate dynamic update of information about a company, products, services and promotions.

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They also allow conversation with customers and prospects for suggestions, opinions and feedback (Rapp, Beitelspacher, Grewal & Hughes, 2013). As already hinted out, such signals are major sources of market information for marketing managers when carrying out market research and forecasting. These social media tools change very quickly. Some are improved regularly while others disappear altogether. Better still, new ones emerge every day. The most important aspect is to understand the concepts, types of available tools, their nature and suitability in conducting market research depending on the goals and objectives of a firm (Whiting & Williams, 2013).

For each type of social media conversation used to gather market data, strategic thinking is mandatory. For instance, it is important to plan and design the research work with a high visual content that can easily attract the attention of targeted consumers (Abuhashesh, 2014). Aspects such as logo, colors, and fonts should be appropriate. Respondents should also find it easy to navigate the system bearing in mind that they will have no assistant to help them out when answering questions from a given survey.

References

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