Social Media Helps Market Researchers


Marketers have traditionally used research methods such as focus groups, observation, trend analysis, and competitive research to help develop and gauge customer response to new products. But that was before social media. Today, a new research methodology using social media is helping companies understand consumer preferences and develop new products. Case in point: Frito-Lay is using Facebook to interact with its customers to suggest new flavors. The company’s “Do us a flavor” app on Facebook encourages customers to suggest and vote on new flavor combinations.

Frito-Lay isn’t the only company using this method. Other companies, such as Wal-Mart, have also been using social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare as an marketing research forum. Wal-Mart used social media networks to determine whether to stock lollipop-shaped cake makers, Estee Lauder asked its social media users to vote on lipstick shades to bring back to market, and Samuel Adams got its fans involved to create a crowd-sourced beer.

Marketers benefit from the direct interaction with customers. Customers get a voice, a vote, and show their preferences directly and immediately with companies.

Another benefit for companies is that social media users trend to younger ages; these are people who might not previously have been vocal in their likes and dislikes. Companies might not have even realized they had disenfranchised consumers until sagging sales made it too late for action. Now, by involving customers early, companies get the benefit of the crowds viewpoints early, long before potentially losing market share.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Divide students into groups. Have each group search social media sites to uncover companies using sites for market research.
  2. Companies to examine on Facebook and Twitter: Wal-Mart, Frito-Lay, Samuel Adams, and Kohls.
  3. How are these companies using social media such as Facebook and Twitter for research?
  4. What other companies and products might benefit from this approach? Why?
  5. What are the pros of using social media for market research?
  6. What are the negative aspects?
  7. In groups, have students design a market research project that could be conducted using a company’s Facebook app.

Source:  New York Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune, other news sources, 7/31/12

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