Archive for the ‘Social Networking’ Category
Well, we’re now in 2012 and are asking ourselves, as we do at the start of each New Year, what will be the next big thing for B2B over the coming twelve months?
A little bird told me a secret…apparently social media is quite a hit at present, and there’s this website out there called Twitter which one or two people and companies are using to tell others all about what they’re up to.
For those of you who are Tweeting pros already, are you keeping up to date with B2B International on Twitter? If not, what are you waiting for? Follow us now @B2B_Insight. It’s all the rage, you know!
A few days ago, fresh from choosing his latest Apprentice (in the UK BBC show), Lord Sugar conducted some rather cutting-edge social media market research. The task that Lord Sugar was looking to complete was not the most business critical decision by any stretch of the imagination – however, it was still an important decision, and one that most publishers and designers will surely agree, can take much deliberation and an abundance of time. The task – to decide upon the cover for Lord Sugar’s latest book.
In The Apprentice, Lord Sugar is often talking of the importance of market research, and a few days ago he highlighted to all his twitter followers the apparent ease with which it can be undertaken. Lord Sugar posted a short message via his twitter account (http://twitter.com/Lord_Sugar) asking his followers to cast their eyes over three variations of a new cover for his up-coming book, and to then respond with their preference (cover 1, 2 or 3 – (view the images here)).
Sure enough, Lord Sugar’s followers duly obliged, and 24 hours later a twitter post appeared proclaiming cover number two to be the chosen winner.
So what had Lord Sugar achieved? Well, in the space of a day he had come up with a research problem, put the question to his market, and received the feedback he was looking for. And ofcourse, this was an act of measurement – the covers were already designed, so there was no need for qualitativefeedback as to what people liked about the covers, or how they could be improved. Lord Sugar got to the core of his problem rapidly, and got the measurement he needed.
Although this medium of social media research is fairly new (though certainly gathering pace rapidly), the principal of ‘dipstick’ research has been around for many years in various forms, through tools such as omnibus surveys and panels. With an omnibus survey, a specific question (or number of questions) can be submitted to a target market or a particular sample pool, on a syndicated survey that may run weekly/bi-weekly/monthly. Results are usually turned around in a number of days. Surveys of this nature are indeed very useful in terms of gauging a quick response from the market and gathering attitudes towards a particular topic; however, they are unable to answer more in-depth research objectives, where a wide range of questioning is required.
Research using social media channels is certainly more prevalent in consumer research than in business research – though its usage in a b2b capacity is certainly growing. Indeed, b2b research inherently leans more towards multi-modal methodologies, as many projects seek to address a number of sub-objectives. Projects may combine exploratory focus groups with a programme of desk research, followed by a quantitative telephone survey, in order to meet a project objective. And of course, all research tools have their strengths and weaknesses, their applications where they yield the best results, and Lord Sugar highlights the strengths of social media research here.
There is, of course, much more to social media research – attitudes to brands can be tracked through syndication tools, key trends and problems can also be identified and addressed – and much more. Indeed, it too is a methodological approach that could complement an array of other methodologies being used in a multi-method piece of research. The uses and possibilities are quite vast – those mentioned in these few paragraphs are very much the tip of the iceberg.
Lord Sugar’s dipstick twitter research certainly delivered quick results, and certainly met his research objective of gathering market opinion on which book cover is preferred. So, perhaps this could be a methodology that would be best used for answering questions whereby a response is either time critical, or where a rough quantitative gauge is required.
The pool of followers that each twitter user has (whether a person or company) could be considered to be its own miniature panel – or twitterpanel, if you will. Though this pool of followers may not be representative of a company’s customer base, or a person’s typical readership (as in Lord Sugar’s case), they certainly have a vested interest in the said account, otherwise they wouldn’t be following it. This is a panel that is instantly accessible, and as Lord Sugar shows, can answer a simple research problem in an extremely short space of time.
Though it is unlikely that this type of dipstick research through twitter can ever replace typical surveys (not least because twitter followers will no doubt be averse to being over-researched, let alone its limitations) it can certainly provide an excellent gauge on a market’s attitudes.
Ever the entrepreneur, Lord Sugar has taken a problem and found a simple, effective, and free solution.
Most large US companies* are not currently using social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to gather customer feedback, according to the findings of a recent study conducted by research technology firm MarketTools. This aligns with recent findings from our business confidence tracker for Business Link in London whereby we survey 3,000 SME business owners in London and found that only 37% are using social media for business purposes.
The MarketTools study also revealed a disparity in the way companies think and the way they act with regard to customer satisfaction. Although 92% of respondents believe that satisfied customers are very important or extremely important to their company’s bottom line, fewer than half (42%) solicit customer feedback on a continuous basis, and more than one-fifth (22%) invite feedback only once a year or not at all.
If there is one New Year’s Resolution we should all be making as marketers is making sure we keep on top of customer feedback to make sure our customers stay loyal and remain satisfied.
For more information on how B2B International can help your company improve customer loyalty please visit our white paper on Customer Satisfaction
*Sample of 810 executives at companies with annual revenue greater than $100m
This week Chrissie Douglas reflects on the change of pace in both her own life and in the broader business world over the last 5 years.
Doesn’t time fly. Thursday’s here again and this week it’s my turn to put pen to paper. This is when I have to admit, I begin to panic. I panic because my life has been hijacked by my 2 young children for almost 5 years now. During this time I haven’t really had to think about the outside world, never mind write anything. Life for me is about minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day ‘fire-fighting’ – school runs, nappy changes, are they fed and watered?
So I palm the kids off with their Dad for a couple of hours and for the first time in years I sit, ponder and reflect. The thing that immediately comes to mind is how much things have changed in the last 5 years and the pace of that change – where did those years go?
Five years ago the world was a very different place. With the risk of being random – Britain was booming yet now we are in the midst of the greatest recession since the 1930s. Twitter was known as “text messaging” and the “tweet” only went to one other person – now you share your thoughts and movements with the world. Friends were called ‘friends’ and you used to go and meet them in the pub at the weekend. Now friends are your ‘social network’ and the pub has closed down! We now ‘talk’ to friends & acquaintances via the rapidly growing social networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. We used to go to the store to shop – now the store comes to the door. And in keeping with this randomness – there were 9 planets in our solar system and now there are only 8 (Pluto was demoted in 2006)!
So a lot has changed. The world has moved on in such a short time and I have struggled to move with it. I still use my phone as a phone whereas all my friends are talking about the latest apps. This preoccupation with our own world, the day to day and short term-ism is often mirrored in the business world. Just like me, some businesses are so entrenched in the detail, the tactical, the ‘here and now’, that they fall into the trap of loosing focus, lacking direction and forgetting about the big picture. Many businesses drift along unaware of the changes going on around them and even when they do, fail to react quick enough.
There are some high profile examples in this 5 year timeframe. For example in the retail sector in the last 2 years alone we have lost; Thirst Quench, Stylo, Mosaic, Principles, Sofa Workshop, Allied Carpets, Viyella, Dewhursts, Woolworths, MFI, Zavvi/Virgin Megastore, and Barratts. The list goes on…
The specific details are varied, but the commonality is that they failed to spot and/or react to change quickly enough. For example Woolworths, failed to move with the times and compete effectively with the ‘pile it high’, ‘sell it cheap’ supermarket discounters. In other words – as the competition changed their trading models – Woolies didn’t react. Another example is Sofa Workshop who struggled as consumers put off buying so-called ‘big ticket’ items due to the slowdown in the housing market, fears over the wider economy and the lack of available credit.
There are other companies that are clinging onto their existence. For example, Blockbuster was late in realising that brick based stores no longer work in a world of on-demand TV and is desperately trying to change their business model to one based on low-cost DVD rental kiosks and offering mobile movies via smartphone. Likewise, Borders, the global book store is currently developing a Kobo e-reader to try and compete with e-book readers from Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble. Will they make it or are they too late?
So how do we keep informed of what’s going on around us? How do we pre-empt change and respond proactively? How do we stay ahead? The answer lies in research.
Market research obtains information direct from the people who matter – business people, industry experts and customers. Market tracking research provides low cost, up-to-the-minute, detailed market intelligence. Market tracking monitors allow important trends to be captured rapidly, enabling quick, reliable decisions to be made on market size, growth, value and development. Tracking research is also fundamental to monitoring brand performance and measuring customer satisfaction. Market tracking allows companies to monitor how effective they are in relation to their competitors, and to react quickly to changing market conditions.
Some revealing stats:
According to the study, 94% of non-corporate tweets are personal in nature and 43% begin with an “@” sign, meaning they’re directed at another user, not the sender’s followers at large. By contrast, only 12% of messages from marketers are directed at individual Twitter users, indicating that marketers still see the site as a broadcast medium rather than a conversational one.
It should be noted, however, that this study was carried out between October 2009 and March 2010 – before the website took any advertising via ‘promotional tweets’, so it’s quite possible that Twitter’s effectiveness for marketers may change soon.