Goodbye Focus Groups. Hello User Generated Content:
The formulaic steps in orchestrating a focus group are nauseating. Considering the time, energy and resources required can be overwhelming for companies of any size. According to the Athena Group, the average cost can add up to about $5,000 per group. Fortunately, gone are the days of dragging current customers in off the streets in exchange for gift-cards to Starbucks for the purpose of market research.
Technology takes the branding conversation away from board-rooms and into living rooms, concerts, and just about anywhere on planet earth. There are plenty of ways to generate unfiltered primary source content. Chances are the tools required to perform such research are either in your pocket or sitting on the desk in front of you.
When was the last time you searched your brand, company, product, or service on Twitter? Chances are it’s been a while. This great tool aggregates in real-time the conversation between company and customer. Search keywords, brand names or themes your brand embodies. Here’s an example from Ben and Jerry’s. Notice the users don’t use hashtags or call out a handle. The conversation is authentic.
Strange URL. Awesome business intel. BuzzSumo shows the dominating topics of conversation in your industry. Discover influencers and start down a rabbit-hole of consumer produced content. Perform a quick brand-audit. Does your message resonate or fit the lens of the topics being covered.
For example, a coffee-bean company decides (around a secret conference room meeting) the features of the coffee bean are what people care about. “Slow flavored and perfected in steel roasters.” Features. After doing some quick research online through primary sources, the company discovers customers love the coffee because it allows a time-out from the plugged-in world to relax. Images of people drinking coffee wrapped up in a blanket on a cold-cabin morning have a much higher engagement than a time-lapse of the roasting process.
This article about biodegradable coffee mugs resulted in 393 Facebook Shares, 495 LinkedIn Shares and over two thousand retweets on Twitter. Should this brand pay more attention to the biodegradable story?
User-generated-video submissions are the closest you can get to seeing the world through the eyes of your customers without actually seeing the world through the eyes of your customer. Using a video contest through The Audience Awards, your most engaged followers share their story. These videos are valuable for more reasons than one. First, video contests are exciting. From a marketing standpoint, contests run the risk of being lame: “the 100th person to like our Facebook page gets a free sticker.” Nobody really benefits from that contest … or the sticker. When users contribute to a video contest, that video lives online forever. The story of your customer is captured in video-format to be viewed on any platform at any time. You can’t say that about “likes.”
In its infancy, live video applications such as Periscope and Meerkat have connected the world in remarkable ways. Although unedited, grainy and downright dizzying, the movement and growth of live-video applications as the world is quite literally in the palms of people’s hands is important. Periscope’s tagline is to “explore the world through someone else’s eyes.” It might sound trivial, Remember, when the internet was introduced to mainstream, it was scoffed at as unimportant and a tool reserved for techies and basement dwellers.
Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and investor in Facebook, famously stated: “they promised us flying cars, and all we got was 140 characters.” While the present did not deliver flying cars, social media is changing the way the world communicates. Free global messaging that is given partial credit for the Arab Spring starting in 2010. Live video from anywhere in the world might be laughed at. A tool allowing tweens to broadcast the dance party from their parent’s basement. Yes. A tool that suddenly empowers users to document their tiny corner of the world while simultaneously flattening the world for the rest of us? Yes.
Data Driven Decisions:
Focus groups are popular because they often lead to insights for customer behavior and brand appeal/recognition. Delivering a nice pie-graph after a focus group can feel satisfying. All that hard work of organizing paying off … but is it really? Did you actually hear from your customers in a meaningful way? Use the tools above to help understand what your customers are saying outside of survey responses and out from under fluorescent lights.