The key to shaping perceptions of brands, products, or services comes from an intimate understanding of consumers’ experiences and preferences in their natural settings. As new media transitioned to social media, consumers began forming communities to discuss these very aspects of their lives. As market researchers, we now have the ability to not only tap these communities to hear what the consumers of our brands are saying, but we also have the ability to form these communities.
At one time, conversation between a consumer and a brand was limited, if not nearly impossible. With social media and online brand communities, conversation is not only possible, but also instantaneous. Consumers now expect to be heard and they know we’re listening.
Market and brand researchers now have the ability to track online conversations. As not all campaigns are designed to increase sales, conversation tracking has become a part of many business’s tracking strategies. For research initiatives, we can pose specific questions to gain the feedback from the consumers closest to our brands. By understanding these perceptions, marketers can act much more quickly than ever before to responding to the needs of consumers.
There are other benefits to social media and online brand communities. I truly believe that consumers are much more comfortable typing their opinions, attitudes, and beliefs about a brand than they are in interviews and focus groups. Without a researcher present, or at least in person, consumers seem to be more candid in their responses – providing rich and meaningful data for researchers about their brands.
For more information about social media and communities, join us in Orlando at The Market Research Event in November where experts will discuss the new opportunities of these resources.
Garrett McGuire is a Consumer Insights Analyst for a major retailer. His areas of focus are advertising research, brand equity, and providing consumer insights for many marketing initiatives. Prior to his current position, he was a graduate student at Michigan State University where he began his blog, "The Journal of mAD Man," that explains the theories and methods of advertising.