Using Twitter for Market Research

Microsoft fans and geeks alike know (and sometimes even love) blogger Robert Scoble and his blog, Scobleizer. I follow him with a passing interest on Twitter, but was struck by two recent tweets which I think hint at an opportunity for market researchers. Here are those tweets:

From: @Scobleizer
Sent: Dec 14, 2010 1:11p

How to tell whether I am right about a new startup: watch Twitter. With Flipboard hundreds agreed immediately. With Voice DJ? Nope.

From: @Scobleizer
Sent: Dec 23, 2010 3:09a

The best way to tell if a startup is gonna make it is to watch a group of Twitterers, here’s why. @Admore … #Cinch:

What Scoble is saying is pretty clear – it’s another way market research is, in effect, being crowd sourced.  Scoble is talking about new startups here, but I’ve found a similar trend with my clients who are hosting events.  I can tell from the first tweet if the event is going to be a success.

Last month, two of my clients announced free teleseminars. Both had about 1,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter. Each tweeted the announcement and posted it to their Facebook pages. One teleseminar, “Pregnant Mama Secrets” had 5 retweets, 6 “likes” and 9 comments or replies in the first day. The second, “Holiday Sanity Check”, got bupkis. Not a comment, not a retweet. Nothing!

Before either client even sent out the emails or placed a single ad, I had a hunch what was going to happen. In fact, my “Holiday Sanity” client was actually much more established than my “Pregnant Mama” client. She had even been on Oprah! Both clients sent emails to their lists and sure enough the event that got the most social media action (the “Pregnant Mama” client) filled up with 100 participants shortly after the first email. The second event was cancelled due to lack of interest.

The lesson for me was pretty clear. Float things on Twitter (and Facebook) and if you don’t get a response, or if the response is comparatively light, ask for feedback or tweak the details and retweet until you get a positive response. I do this now with all my campaigns before spending any money on paid search or other ads.

If you feel like your tweet stream of Facebook fan-base is too small to get meaningful feedback, ask politely for retweets from those with bigger followers. This alone becomes market research for the idea.

For instance, I ran a campaign called @112 Poems on Election night. It was an academic campaign with the goal of harvesting 112 poems on 11/2 (election night) about the 112th Congress. The professor running the campaign, however, had a grand total of zero Twitter followers.

Our strategy was to follow Twitter poets, other academics, and people affiliated with this professor’s academic institution. We began to tweet about the event and used @ mentions to ask the people she was following to retweet a message about the event. We decided if we couldn’t get 50% of the people we asked to retweet the request for submissions, we would cancel the event.

In the end we had about 20% of people we asked retweet the call for submissions (a total of 19 retweets to a total of 15,839 followers). We decided to go forward with the campaign anyway, but in the end only received 50 poems (instead of our target of 112). In other words, we had a little less than half of the retweets we hoped for and we got about half of the poems we wanted.

While not statistically significant, the rough and dirty Twitter response we got from our request for retweets gave us all the information we needed to tell this campaign wasn’t going to be a total bust but it wasn’t going to go gang busters either.

Are there ways you can use twitter to “stick a finger in the air” and tell which way the wind is blowing? Would it save you time? Money? Embarrassment?

Of course Twitter isn’t ever going to be your only source of market research but it can save you a lot of time and aggravation if you use it take the initiative to get the initial pulse of your prospects.



  1. Twitter is just one venue from which Market Research can be assisted these days. There is a whole array of Hybrid techniques that are cutting edge, and bring about more research in less time, without spending all the money that goes into more traditional research methods.

    InsightsNow has a recorded Webinar “Get practical: How to Apply Hybrid Techniques to integrated methods” that deals with just this. You can check it out here

    Hope this is of help to someone out there in the interwebs!


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