We typically think of social media sites such as LinkedIn as places for networking and sharing ideas, which is certainly their primary function. Over time, however, sites like LinkedIn (and to varying degrees other networking sites) have developed an enormous global reach. The sheer size of LinkedIn’s membership has resulted in the creation of groups on nearly every topic imaginable and discussions within these groups touching on thousands and thousands of subjects.
This “user” created content has propelled networking sites and LinkedIn in particular into a realm, which transcends networking. A listening opportunity for market researchers has emerged and not just for passive listening. The opportunity to conduct active listening (a.k.a. market research studies) is possible. In fact, it is already a reality, available to anyone with the skill to extract the information.
Here are three ways to access marketing information from LinkedIn:
Discussion groups offer a wealth of content. While you may rush to start your own discussions to capture content, you might find that the information you seek is already out there. Finding the group(s) and discussions with the content you are looking for can take some time and skill. However, if you find relevant content much of the work has been done for you (assuming the topic generated a large number of comments). The trick now is to synthesize the information and pull out the themes, trends, and other pearls of wisdom.
Of course, you can start your own discussion threads within a group. The advantage is you can design the specific question or topic you want to explore. In addition, as the author of the discussion you have a little more latitude to steer the discussion, allowing you to simulate an asynchronous focus group.
LinkedIn has additional functionality such as “Answers” which allows a user to pose questions and offer them up to the LinkedIn membership (Go to the main menu click on More and select Answers). The person asking the question can grade the answers and select a “best answer.” This is the motivation for taking time to participate.
Again, you don’t necessarily need to ask a question to glean value from this function. You may find that someone, and in some cases a number of people, have already asked a question that is close enough to the question you want answered. Once again, all you have to do is synthesize the content. Well that is the hard part, but the data are often there awaiting your analysis.
The Poll function also offers a simple but potentially powerful mechanism for collecting data on an individual question. Used creatively Polls can provide market intelligence, albeit with a very limited scope. You can search existing Polls or write and launch your own. Either way there are answers to questions waiting to be discovered. For no cost or low cost you can reap a great deal of market intelligence from LinkedIn using Polls and other functions either individually or in combination with one another.
These and other avenues for exploring the marketplace, listening to your target audience, and performing both qualitative and quantitative market research are available to anyone who wishes to use them.
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