As I’m sure you know, the explosion of social media over the past few years means that people are living more of their lives online. While it might creep you out a little bit to think of all the ways companies and the government can monitor and use that information, it’s actually a huge advantage for anyone who is trying to get a startup off the ground.
Chances are you don’t have a lot of money at your disposal to hire big companies who specialize in software that will do the work for you, but I’m guessing you have the dedication (and maybe a couple of interns) to sift through the massive amounts of information floating around on the web to figure out exactly what your market wants and needs.
What’s the Point?
The first step for how to use social media to promote your business is to figure out what exactly you need to know. If your product is an iPhone app, chances are you don’t need to pay attention to people who don’t have iPhones. Cut them out of the picture. Already you’ve narrowed the pool.
Then think about the specific goals you want to meet through this research. Are you trying to find out who is using your product or where it’s being used or when people are most likely to use it? The more specific you are, the more likely you’re going to get useful information.
Think of it as fly fishing versus deep sea fishing: you’re not just throwing out a huge net and pulling in whatever it catches. You’ve got specific bait and you’re trying to catch a specific fish.
Get the Info!
Once you figure out what you want know, it’s time to actually go get that information. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably Twitter. Twitter is a great way to reach a lot of people really quickly, but you have to make sure your questions are clear and simple before you let them out in the Tweetosphere.
Try reaching out online to your current customers before you start asking questions to the general public because they’ll help you figure out exactly what questions need to be asked. As I’m sure you know, keep it short because people have a really hard time paying attention online. And it never helps to offer them a discount or some other incentive. People like to win things.
Another less direct way to get information on market trends is through keyword searches. This is going to give you a more “meta” picture of what’s going on, while Twitter and Facebook and sites where individuals are self-reporting can help you see more clearly into the “micro.”
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that this is going to be a one-time thing. The market is fickle and you’ve got to keep track of it constantly or you’re going to fall behind. Make sure you’re consistently staying on top of all of the social media outlets you’ve chosen to monitor, whether it’s through a third-party software or website or through something you’ve set up on your own.
Organize, Organize, Organize!
If all of this information gathering is going to be useful, you have to make sure it’s in an easy to read, accessible form. Set up files that your whole team can access and add to as things change. Check it constantly and make sure it’s always, always up to date.
People talk about everything on social media, from pictures of what they ate that day to where they’re having coffee to what’s going on at work. Use this outline as a guideline for how to use social media to promote your business, utilize the tools at your disposable, and watch what happens. I bet you’ll be quite happy with the results.