One of the best ways to observe what people like and do not like is to follow social networking mediums closely. They’re the online vox populi, and if you know how to sift through multitudes of status messages, shout outs and tweets, you’ll go a long way with your market research.
These social networking sites are designed to encourage public opinion, and in a world where there are limited soap boxes and podiums, you won’t even have to distribute surveys to get people’s opinions anymore. Online community members would voluntarily update their status messages and give you what you want, as long as you know how to look for it.
The tedious way to do it is go for keyword searches. Most social networking communities have search boxes on their databases. Much like search engines, they isolate and collect usernames and status messages which contain the keywords you’re looking for. Say, you’re searching for status messages which contain anything about a restaurant’s new meal, they’ll line them up in your search results page and you can get your data there.
If you’re feeling more optimistic, you can also look at the fan pages of your prospective competitors. These fan pages offer more than just cheers for the brand, though. While in Facebook, the “like” button predetermines everything, people who are listed as fans of a particular product can also voice out negative opinions about the product or the service in the page. It’s very hard to get these things from a survey, but when you’re manually “observing” social networking pages, these gems aren’t hard to come by.
Those who already have their brick-and-mortar businesses set up can also make their own fan pages with a few simple clicks. These fan pages are equipped with tools for polls. Once you have enough “fans” or contacts listed, you can use this as a random sample. Make your poll short and sweet, though, because if it’s too long, your contacts might not take the time to answer it.
If you’re feeling a little ingenious, you can also dress up your poll as a personality “quiz”. This way, your sample population would feel like they’re on their way to self awareness and they’re not just helping you do your job.