Beware the Yellow Walkman: Leveraging Social Media Research

By Tonita Proulx, Business Partnerships

Published: February 21, 2017

Have you heard of the yellow Sony Walkman urban legend?

The story tells of a focus group conducted by Sony to gauge the impressions of a yellow Sony Walkman. Sony asked the group, what do you think of this yellow Walkman? They received a great response from their focus group — people really loved this new yellow Walkman! However, when the group members went to leave and were offered a yellow Walkman or the traditional black, they selected the black Walkman.

But the focus group loved the yellow Walkman, right?

Sony experienced firsthand a potential pitfall of traditional market research. While focus groups could limit truthful impressions because it’s a forced situation, social media as research allows you to see people in their natural state.

Social media market research is more natural, more observational and not a forced story.

The biggest challenge is getting marketers to try these new ways. You know what you know, but you don’t know what you don’t know, right? Trying out social media for research may take a change in mindset but can offer a big payoff.

How to Use Social Media for Research

Instead of spending six months doing extensive market research and focus groups, detailed social media research can be conducted in as little as six weeks. You can use Facebook Insights to dig into your audience’s lifestyle and what they are engaging with online, what brands they like and even what they eat for breakfast.

Along the way, you can find trends and better learn how you can communicate with that audience. Use gut instinct and compiled data to move quickly in better understanding your target audience. You do have to use a bit of caution with social media research because people may misrepresent themselves, but if you have enough data, that should weed itself out.

Eventually, detected trends will make way for personas, allowing you to build a strategy for communicating to these individual groups within your audience. Continue to use social media for research while building your strategy. Keep an eye on what’s trending, what your audience is saying about you and your competitors, and what’s happening in the world as all of these play a factor in your strategy to reach your audience.

You can even try a test campaign on social media to further interact with your audience and see what they do (or don’t do) with tailored-to-them content. Even after carefully crafting and sharing your content, you can continue to use social media research and insights to better your strategy and refine your focus.

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