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Using Twitter for primary research

TwitterTwitter can be an awesome research tool. Does that surprise you? And so can Facebook – and probably dozens of other social networks I haven’t tapped into yet.

Not long ago, I got involved with a startup that is creating a new beverage – it’s a unique new Kombucha. Every founder thinks their product is unique and new, but honestly, this one really is. I say that because almost all Kombuchas taste like vinegar – but the one we’re working on doesn’t. If you’re wondering what Kombucha is, you’re not alone: it’s a fermented tea that contains “stuff that’s good for you.” Here’s a Wikipedia article that will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about Kombucha.

FacebookBefore I get into how we’re using Twitter and Facebook, I want to say how I got involved with this startup. I have often written about using your blog to find work or consulting assignments. Well, that’s exactly what happened here. One of the founders of the startup I’m helping commented on a blog article I’d written about how publishing can help our personal branding.

Now I’ve never worked in consumer packaged goods, and I’d never tasted Kombucha before – and if you knew me, you’d know I’m not a health food nut. But I do know marketing, and I’ve been participating in Web 2.0, whatever that is, for some time.

What I discovered is that there are lots of people writing about Kombucha – there are sometimes hundreds of tweets every day on Twitter, and there are hundreds of fan pages on Facebook. So I started watching for the word Kombucha on Twitter – and to generate a history of these tweets, I feed them into Google Reader as an RSS feed. (I’ve written about how to do that here.)

We learned a lot from this exercise. Several Kombucha producers tweet, and many people who might be early adopters of a new product have a strong presence on Twitter (and blog about their passion for the drink). We also got a lot of basic competitive information from searching through company and fan pages on Facebook.

How does this apply to you?

  • If you’re looking for a job, you can do exactly what I did for any target companies. See what people are saying about those companies. You’ll be able to formulate a better strategy for approaching the companies, and you’ll know far more about them if you get an interview.
  • If you’re looking for consulting work, track your competing consultants, and also target companies, as just described.
  • If you’re still writing, and hoping to get found (as I did), you can use Twitter and Facebook to augment your subject matter expertise – substantially.

You can share information with co-workers or success team members by making Twitter lists – select the “good” people to follow, put them in a list, and then tell your associates how to find the list. I may write more about these lists, but for now, check out this article Robert Scoble wrote.

Yes, there’s a lot of crap on both Twitter and Facebook. But the real winner figures out how to weed through the junk to find the treasures. You can do it – you just need to follow the guides I’ve written and put some work into your research. We now have information that was never available to marketers before – you can talk directly to people who would be likely early adopters of your product, and it doesn’t cost a dime.

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3 Responses

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  1. JP McDermott says

    Walt – Thanks for the post – I’m still learning how to best use Twitter and posts like yours help enormously! Thanks!

    • Walter Feigenson says

      Thanks for the comment, JP. The more we get into these technologies, the more we realize that we all still have a lot to learn – even the experts. -walt

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Tweets that mention Using Twitter for primary research | Wally's Follies -- linked to this post on November 18, 2009

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Walter Feigenson, JP McDermott. JP McDermott said: RT @tweetmeme Using Twitter for primary research | Wally's Follies […]