Tuesday, August 9, 2011

7 Steps for Turning Twitter Into an Effective Market Research Tool

Twitter:  Waste of Time or a Business Tool?
I used to think that Twitter represented no significant value for business needs.  Just to be familiar with it, I opened an account a while ago, and tweeted here and there.

That all changed as I began working on a startup, developing a technology to prevent cyberbullying.  In that process, I discovered very effective ways of using Twitter as a practical tool for market research.

Many business executives, product managers, marketing professionals and sales reps find it hard keeping up with  industry news, competitive info and market trends.  Even though there are plenty of tools, keeping up with the news still requires hours of finding, sorting and reading articles.  People are usually busy with tens of different tasks, leaving market research as something that often gets pushed down in priority.

Enter Twitter
There are armies of people who are tirelessly tweeting 24 hours a day.  Tweets are brief.  It takes less than a minute for us to determine if they are useful or not.  We can use Twitter as tool to quickly get up to speed with the relevant news, spending just 5-10 min a day.  Here is how I do it:

1.  Create a Twitter account that contains the words of the main business problem you are trying to solve.  In my case, it has "Cyberbullying" in it.  This will be useful later, when you would want to use Twitter for marketing needs.

2.  Find people tweeting on the subject of your interest.  You can use the search bar for that.  Play with multiple keywords to get the content you want.  Then check profiles of people you found and make sure they fit your needs.

3.  Create your Twitter list.  Follow as many relevant users as possible.

4.  Get a mobile app.  It may be easier to get quick updates on an iPhone or Android.  I am using TweetCaster on Android.  It gives me updates in a very easy format.  It takes me only 5-10 min to go through the daily news.  I often discover news before they show up in RSS feeds or other major news sources and tools.  The most relevant ones get lots of retweets from many people.  It is sort of "crowd voting."

5.  Trim your list.  As you are finding people who are tweeting irrelevant things for whatever reasons, unfollow them, until you have a "golden list" of sources that bring you the best quality news.

6.  Check few times a day for 3-5 minutes each time and you will be abreast of the latest industry news.

7.  Augment this with your more in-depth research from various sources when you have time.

That's it!  
In military terms, Twitter became my Special Forces team for getting the dirty job done quickly and effectively.  Other tools are like my regular military units for thorough, longer-term type projects.

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