You’ve been posting to your social media… now what? You have some social media in use (Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Newsletter, etc.) now you need to market it to drive activity and traffic to your social media efforts… which leads to increased sales.

In a series of blogs started last month I will address four vital aspects of Social Media success:

1) Company and brand positioning using social media.

2) Market research and customer profiling using social media.

3) Utilizing social media for on line promotions.

4) Tying your social media marketing efforts to your traditional advertising and media.

This month’s installment I will discuss above aspect #2 – Market research and customer profiling using social media.

Years ago in marketing, the closest most companies ever got to customers were focus groups (research). You never had to actually talk to them.

Today, social media provides companies the opportunity to get much more up close and personal with their customers. A review of Twitter and Facebook shows the many ways in which companies don’t get it. There are the abandoned accounts where companies have just given up and there are others where companies are plowing on even though they are doing more harm than good.

When setting up social media accounts like Facebook, people fill out a profile which asks many questions like: sex, age, education level, hobbies, income bracket, etc. You can leverage this valuable marketing insight (research is done for you!).

Online survey software exists which allows you to survey those on your email contact list (yet more research). You write the business specific questions you ask your own hand selected focus group!

Customer testimonials (reviews) are another great research tool – a barometer if you will, on how you are perceived. You will see what things you (and your employees) are doing right and areas for improvement.

Here are some common social media tips that will help focus your customer profile and research efforts:

  • Be human

When you’re using social media, you are stepping into the room with your customers and you need to engage with them on a personal level.  If you want them to stick around, you need to behave appropriately. That means you need to be concerned, interesting and interested and have a conversation about your brand without bragging, spamming, selling, or talking like you are a press release. In any social media interaction, you should be asking yourself: What would a human do? And do that.

  • Don’t overreach

Here are some of the brands that are recognized social media stars – Starbucks, Coke, Zappos. They have passionate fans and have used social media to build yet deeper and stronger relationships with them. But most brands aren’t so lucky and won’t be able to copy what they do and enjoy the same level of success. If you have a relatively weak relationship, your customers are going to quickly tire of you if you are all Chatty Cathy with them. A study by ExactTarget showed that the #1 reason for people to unlike brands on Facebook was that they posted too frequently.

  • Add value

Rather than force conversations that your customers don’t want to have, think about how to add some value. Even brands in the most mundane of categories with the weakest of relationships can find ways to add value. For example, they can provide useful information about their products or services and about their categories. If all else fails, a sure-fire way of adding value is to give out coupons (which is what many customers want anyway).

  • Listen and respond

According to a study by Socialbakers, brands don’t respond to 95% of questions posted on their Facebook walls. 95%! If you’ve gone to all the trouble of setting up a page, it seems almost perverse not to bother responding to customer questions. This is a two-way medium (yet more research). You get to talk but you also need to listen and respond.

  • Use the tools available!

A recent IBM study of 1,700 companies found that 82% planned to increase their use of social media. However, only 26% of them are actually tracking blogs and less than half are tracking customer reviews to help shape their marketing plans. Not good enough! Start using the tools and learn by participation.

By researching friends and followers profiles you can gain insight into who your perfect customer is and get ideas about how to better target your social media and advertising. Powerful information is available at your fingertips – learn to leverage it for increased visitor conversion rates and increased sales.