Monthly Archives: April 2015

How to Use Twitter to Conduct Market Research

Market Research

Most users who regularly access Twitter do so merely to read what the people they’re following are tweeting and to check their @ mentions, but because Twitter is an open platform with most tweets accessible to the public, there’s a wealth of information for those looking to conduct market research and gain insights into consumer habits. The key is leveraging Twitter’s search platform to zoom in on specific communities and consumers. Twitter offers a number of free options for this, but you can also purchase tools made by outside companies that perform sentiment analysis and graph longterm trends by accessing Twitter’s API. Whether you’re a lobbyist trying to gauge public opinion on an issue or a consumer packaged good company wanting to see what people are saying about your competitors, there’s no shortage of data to be pored over if you know where and how to look.

John Andrews has conducted marketing for consumer packaged goods companies large and small. He eventually joined the grocery marketing team at Walmart and founded the influencer social media platform called Walmart Eleven Moms. He’s now the CMO at Ignite, a social media marketing agency. We discussed whether sentiment analysis tools are advanced enough, how to find the signal in the noise, and how to detect problems consumers have with your product before they bubble into the mainstream.

Why is Twitter such a valuable tool in terms of gathering intelligence? Facebook is a very closed system, it’s not very easy to search. So Twitter, while smaller in terms of audience, is the world’s largest real-time network that’s publicly searchable.

I would agree with that. I think what makes Twitter such a great informational tool is that instant pulse. If you want to find out what’s going on right now, Twitter is a great place to go. If I’m out having dinner with my family and I want to check a game score, I don’t pull up my ESPN app, I go to Twitter and type in — I’m a huge Duke fan — and I type in “Duke.” And I get the score as well as people’s opinions. I get ESPN, but I also get some guy at the game, some guy sitting at home, and another guy who hates Duke talking about how much they suck. I get this really interesting blend of content from different perspectives immediately. So I watched the Super Bowl, and I watched it on Twitter using the branding hashtag that marketers were using, so I got instant feedback on the advertisements, because that’s something I’m interested in. There are a hundred ways you could have watched the Super Bowl on Twitter and all of them would have been different. If I’m a Patriots fan, I could have just put in hashtag Patriots, and I would have gotten all the Patriots stuff. If I’m a city official in Phoenix and I just want to see how this is impacting my city, I can type in hashtag Phoenix. If I’m Toyota, I could get a view about what people are saying about Toyota in context with the Super Bowl. You can curate that down to as fine as you want and get instant information. What was really cool about the Super Bowl, as soon as an ad ran there was just a deluge of content coming out. As soon as the Nationwide dead kid ad ran, you knew it was going to be derided as the worst ad of the Super Bowl. People instantly went nuts on it. I don’t need any special software to do that. It’s easy to do. I can do it from any device that I have. It’s simple. And marketers have gotten smart about dialing into what people are saying and then really drilling down to what are the things people are engaging with so they can become a relevant part of the conversation.

In terms of market intelligence, do you think brands are too focused on what’s being said about them on Twitter rather than trying to actively monitor what’s being said about their competitors and their industry as a whole?

Most marketers are doing a good job of knowing what’s being said about them and what’s being said about their competitors. To your point, what they’re maybe missing is what is the broader conversation they want to be part of? Elmer’s Glue was a client at my former company, and when I was talking to them I said “No one is talking about glue. No one wants to talk about glue.” And the first time I said that to them I thought they were going to throw me out of the room. Because that was what they wanted to talk about. And I said “That’s what you want to talk about, but don’t you want to talk about what your customers want to talk about?” What consumers want to talk about with glue is spending time with my daughter making a craft project. Being creative putting a gift together for my wife. Inspiration about things that I could do to have a Halloween party. Those are the organic conversations people want to share. Nobody gives a shit about glue.

You’re talking about doing research on ancillary industries like crafting, DIY, things that are related to the industry Elmer’s is in.

What I will say to brands a lot is what kinds of conversations do you want to be part of? What conversations are relevant and interesting to people that may include your products? How can you be part of those conversations in a way that’s helpful or interesting or provocative to the audience? If you went to a cocktail party and all you did was talk about yourself, you’d be viewed as a jerk. But if you look at the way people approach social media, that’s a lot of what they do. You look at a lot of Twitter streams where it’s just pictures of a brand logo or package. Great, who cares? I’m not going to share a picture of a bag of potato chips with my audience.

Let’s say a client comes to you and says I want to be more active on Twitter. Before you send out the first tweet I imagine there’s a fair amount of research that goes into it so you can understand how Twitter can bring value to that client. What kind of research are you conducting before you even send out that first tweet?


Like any form of marketing, you need to have a sense of what the grand objectives are. Where the brand lives in the overall environment. We look a lot at sentiment. Whether a brand has accounts on social media is irrelevant because they still have people talking about them on social media. Some of that conversation is good, some bad. For most brands, most conversation is neutral. Our job is to really understand where are those points of engagement? Why as a consumer would I follow this brand? More important, why would I share anything about the brand? And then developing content and testing that content against what people want to talk about. I said to a marketing friend of mine when the Nationwide ad ran during the Super Bowl, I can’t believe they tested that spot, which kind of baffled me. If they wanted to go and test that with several hundred consumers, that’s super easy to do, and they could have easily predicted what the reaction would be.

In terms of sentiment analysis and positive versus negative tweets, do you put much stock in the technology that claims it can scan all of Twitter and spit back out sentiment analysis?

I think that you can get some sentiment out of Twitter, but what I’m skeptical of is the technology that promises it’ll give you this precise assessment of what people think about your brand and tells you what you should say in response. It’s social media, it requires a human. A human should look at data to understand what happens. If you’re going to have computers manage your social media, then you should probably not be doing social media. You have to be able to engage with people, and you can’t do that with a machine. I absolutely think a machine should inform what you’re doing on social media, but a human has to be thinking and writing and creating the interaction.

With something like the Super Bowl where you have this huge audience and these huge brands, there’s just so much volume. How do you sort through all that noise to deliver real intelligence?

A lot of people chase numbers. Two years ago, your ultimate number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers were the main goal. There were marketers whose bonuses and evaluations were based on how many people do we have and do we have more than our competitors? So there was this arms race of “I have to go get a million followers.” And now, I think most people would say that’s not the goal. Engaged followers is the goal. You see lots and lots of brands with these huge follower counts with no interaction. You’re pumping out a lot of content nobody cares about. A professional community manager is the biggest asset that a brand can have. And the reason is they spend time and energy every single day inside a community of people who are engaged with the brand, good, bad, or otherwise. The longer a community manager spends managing a brand’s channel the better the engagement rate they get. That’s because they know the community as well as the community knows them.

If consumers have problems with a company, do you think the first place they’ll give voice to those problems is on Twitter?

It’s a great place to listen and to identify any potential issues. It’s going to happen fast. For any brands that are my clients, I have text alerts so if there are any mentions on Twitter, I know. Most of our community managers that manage individual brands have the same thing. It’s not the only place, though. There are many tools that have sensitive triggers that look for anomalies and jumps in the rate of mentions of a brand. They can spot things very quickly if there’s a change. Twitter can be a very valuable early warning system.

Let’s say you have a client that has lots of enemies and activists, like a cable company or oil giant. Is part of the intelligence gathering identifying all the activists on Twitter and trying to determine whether they’re having any success at stirring up shit against your brand?

I think monitoring the good and bad is great. I think a more advanced strategy is engaging with those people. When I was at Walmart I found some of our harshest critics really appreciated it when you got in a real conversation. With social media you could do that in a way where a lot of other people who were just lurking could witness and be impacted by it.

If you look at a lot of companies with heavy customer service components, companies like AT&T or airlines, a lot of them have launched customer service-specific social channels so those problems are dealt with. I don’t think it’s to get the negative conversation off the main channel so much as companies like AT&T are receiving so many responses that they need to have specific accounts for dealing with certain issues. You see people getting even more creative about it where they’re morphing those customer channels into specific issues, like whether you’re having connection problems or a problem with your billing, etc. I think there’s a reasonable expectation that I can go to a social channel and get help. It’s your 800 number.

Last question. Does monitoring Twitter create a distortion effect where you assume Twitter sentiment reflects public sentiment when in reality Twitter makes up a relatively small portion of the U.S. population? Do brands overreact, not realizing there’s a world beyond Twitter?

Obviously, just being on social media creates a specialized audience. Twitter is not the world. The other thing is, I don’t care how good your brand is, somebody is not going to like it. Somebody is going to always complain. What I look for a lot with attacks, I look at the individual, and frequently they’re just people who complain. That’s what they do. You’ve got to be able to create a sensitivity between that and your customer base as a whole, because that could be a very different group of people. You could be administering to this one person who doesn’t really have much influence at all.


This article is excerpted from my book: Your Guide to Twitter Marketing. I sought out some of the world’s most powerful marketers and grilled them on their subject matter expertise. This book gives you direct insight into how the world’s top marketers approach Twitter and use it to drive sales and influence.

amazon twitter marketing

Image via Insight MEA

How to Use Twitter to Drive Sales


Linda Bolg


While it’s certainly nice to use Twitter for thought leadership and to build brand awareness, all these things are useless if it doesn’t help your bottom line. In fact, companies have seen tremendous success in utilizing the platform to drive sales, whether it’s ecommerce orders, app downloads, or increased foot traffic at offline stores.

Linda Bolg has witnessed many of these successful campaigns firsthand. Bolg is the head of marketing at SocialBro, an end to end campaign management platform that allows you to discover and analyze Twitter data – within your own community and the wider Twittersphere – then act on that intelligence to maximize the potential of Twitter as a revenue generating channel. We discussed what kind of products are best for promoting on Twitter and how to track the success of a Twitter campaign.

In terms of actually driving sales, is there a particular type of product that Twitter is better at promoting? Like is it better at promoting an ecommerce product as opposed to trying to drive foot traffic to offline stores?

I’ve been asked this question often by brands and by potential customers themselves. I actually think that Twitter is really good for driving leads and sales for both B2B and B2C brands, whether it’s service or product based. I think what we’re seeing is the entertainment industry has probably been the fastest to use social and Twitter really well. And then we have had other industries like retail, technology, and travel that have been really good at adopting some of the practices that the entertainment industry has been doing. And now we’re seeing a lot of the B2B companies looking to B2C for what they are doing, and trying to mimic them. I think what we’re seeing are industries that are more mature coming to use Twitter and social in general, and because they’re more mature, they’ve been better at driving revenue, at driving website traffic and leads, but it doesn’t mean from my perspective that Twitter isn’t suitable to drive sales and leads for other industries, it’s just that they’re not that mature. They’re not there yet, but I think we’re going to see it.

So part of the problem is just trying to get people on board with Twitter promotion. Like they might be more inclined to go with a safer bet, or what they perceive to be a safer bet like Facebook or Google because they don’t use Twitter themselves.

Yeah, you’re so right. I think part of the problem is they don’t know what they can do with Twitter. Just to give you an example, in comparison with Facebook, Twitter is open, so it allows users to target new prospects but using Twitter analytics to do really deep segmentation that allows you to not only analyze your own following but also analyze the entire Twittersphere to see what people are saying, combining hashtags, mentions, demographic data, and creating these really detailed and focused target audience lists that you can use for both your organic campaigns and your paid, and you can marry them up with your offline campaigns. You just can’t do that with Facebook. Facebook is great within your own community, but the moment you want to reach beyond that, you’re going to have to do paid, and you’re not going to see who is part of the lists when you’re doing paid promotion. They don’t tell you exactly who’s in your target list until people start engaging with your campaign. So there’s a big difference here.

So you’re saying Twitter is better for organic strategy than Facebook.

Well, yeah. I’d say Twitter is perfect for both. And one of the things I love, one of the things most brands don’t know, is that you can marry up Twitter contacts with your email database. You can enrich the information you hold about your database. So I do think Twitter is better for organic, but I also think Twitter is fantastic for paid because you can use tailored audiences. You can use a tool like SocialBro to do really advanced segmentation, look at the mentions, the hashtags, anything you want to search for, and create this really neat, tailored audience-based list. And then you just plug them into your Twitter ad campaign and you’re good to go. So I think Twitter is really flexible. It’s the ultimate flexible network. The only time where I would say where it doesn’t work is when your audience isn’t on the network.

You mentioned the option of uploading your email list and then promoting tweets to users on that list. How effective of an approach is that?

Well, there are two elements. One of the things we do ourselves is we plug our email list into SocialBro, we marry it up with our Twitter list, and then we extract information and put it back in our database. But the other thing is if we wanted to, we could look at our database and see if we have people who are not following us on Twitter yet but they’re subscribing to our newsletter. If we wanted to we can target them with a Twitter ad promotion. But that’s not normally what we’d tend to do. We will engage with them on email and most of them will follow us on Twitter anyway. We’re more interested in things like looking at a core competitor and looking at a particular campaign they’ve been doing in a geographical region and see who engaged with that. How influential were those users? Are any of those people you would want to engage yourself? Are any of them users you’d like to turn into a brand ambassador? There’s really intelligent data analysis you can do and that wealth of data, that’s what makes Twitter so powerful, but you need that granular segmentation to apply to your marketing strategy.

How does a Twitter strategy, especially in terms of driving sales, differ from another strategy on a platform like Facebook?

I think there are certain things you can’t do with Facebook. For instance if you use the example of B2B brands, one of the things you’d do on top of offering great content and having a tailored audience, is that you’d also leverage social selling. So you’d work together with your sales team and you would target the same people. So you create your list with a tool like SocialBro, and your sales team will try to connect with them and speak to them on a one-to-one basis. That one-to-one interaction can’t be done on Facebook. It can be done to a certain extent from LinkedIn, it’s just not what Facebook is for. It would be very odd for a salesperson to connect with a user on Facebook, whereas that works really well on Twitter. So I think Twitter is stronger. LinkedIn is great, but you need to be connected to a person if you want to speak to them, but with Twitter you can speak to anyone who has a public profile.

So let’s say a brand approaches you and wants to do a sales-oriented campaign on Twitter. What are some questions you’re asking them and what kind of initial research is involved?

I can give you some examples. One is the UFC, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. They’re currently using DM campaigns…

And when you say DM campaigns you mean direct messaging?

Yes. So Twitter direct messaging campaigns, but they’re doing it in very, very clever ways. They have a bunch of automated rules and workflows that automatically put their new followers and their existing followers in lists they set up. So they’re very personalized DM campaigns. They won’t use generic wording. They use automated rules to drive ticket sales for local UFC events. They have an enormous follower basis. If it were a small brand, that would be simple to do manually. But they have millions, so it’s really hard. They have a really clever way of driving ticket sales for regional events. And that’s all done through Twitter DM campaigns and can be tracked.

And when you say DM campaigns, DM to me means something specific, which is to send a private message through Twitter.

That’s what they’re doing.

And it doesn’t show up in the stream it shows up as a direct message?

Yep. And I can give you another example. It’s Universal Music. They have a Twitter campaign for George Harrison, the Beatles player. Obviously he’s not still alive but they still sell his music and he has a lot of fans. So with the Harrison Twitter account, they did a DM campaign where they had a special offer, and they had 71 percent click-through rates to that special offer. I don’t think it was a commercial, it was more like a giveaway thing that then led to a follow-up campaign that was a commercial. We’ve done internal testing as well with Twitter DM campaigns, and the click-through rates are 300 percent higher than the average email campaign click rates. So when you start thinking about those figures, it becomes really attractive. I think the whole key to getting that right is having super targeted communication. If you get that targeting wrong, you’re going to end up annoying the person you’re sending this to, and they’re going to unfollow you. To get it right you’re going to need to use super advanced segmentation.

How much emphasis would you place on promoted tweets and Twitter advertising as opposed to a more organic strategy?

I love both. It depends on the company and what you’re trying to achieve. I would test playing around with different amounts for your campaigns and seeing what works best. If you’re B2B you might find that you want to have it 50/50. If you’ve just launched a new product, you might find it beneficial to put in a lot of money toward a paid campaign but back it up with having an integrated campaign by having a microsite where you’re aggregating all the social content. I don’t think there’s a definitive right or wrong.

What are some of the best tactics for driving offline sales and the best way to measure ROI on that?

I do think companies that aren’t ecommerce-based have to focus on tracking the right things. If you look at the social media awards all around the world, the success metrics have been based on shares, favorites, and all those things, and I think we need to move beyond that. A lot of brands are starting to. We have to marry up our systems and we have to be more clever with what we’re doing, whether it’s in our CRM or our payment system. It doesn’t matter if you’re an ecommerce business or a traditional offline business, you can use social really well, you just need to track what you can do until you prove it.

How important does content play a role? Is Twitter better for broader thought leadership and branding?

I think generally Twitter works brilliantly for both. But it depends if you think of it as this massive prospecting database or a marketing channel. Because if you’re using it as a marketing channel, you basically need to use the same rigor that you would apply to other channels. The things that people think are different about Twitter, these are the same things that are affecting other channels too. You’re less likely to get a click on a Twitter ad unless you’re offering something of true value to the person you’re targeting. That goes the same for other channels too. The creative focus is more shareable, entertaining content, but this is the same for other things. Think about TV advertising, the kind of TV advertising where you have shampoo ads where women are swishing their hair. I think they’re starting to come to look really old fashioned, and a lot of consumers just tune out. I think consumers are increasingly picky in terms of what they respond to. The thing about social is the feedback is immediate and in your face. And the customer’s voice is very audible. And some people don’t like that. But I think you’re kidding yourself if you think the judgement you’re getting on social wouldn’t apply to your previous marketing efforts, whether it’s TV or radio advertising, it still would have been there, you just wouldn’t have seen it. I think marketing just used to be about pushing your message into the homes of people, but now with social it basically brings their voices back to you. One of the great things is that because it’s so immediate, we can use Twitter and apply that feedback across the business as a whole.

We hear a lot about how brands shouldn’t spend all their time talking about themselves. Is there a risk of being too spammy if the focus is too much on direct sales?

Yeah, I don’t believe in that approach at all. If you’re in B2B, you’re a technology company, and you have a fairly long buying process, you want to be focusing on really tailored good content that’s going to help your target audience move to the next stage. And you can have really good targeted paid content that solves their challenges. So I think regardless if you’re B2B, B2C or you’re a services industry, you need to solve your target audience’s pain points. I’m not for social yelling, which is what I tend to call it. It’s about being helpful.

What are some of the best ways to measure return on investment with Twitter?

All your links need to be tracked so you can follow where the user goes using Google Analytics or whatever marketing platform you use. And I think it needs to be married up with your accounting system, like Salesforce. It’s marrying your systems, your Twitter analytics, your Google analytics, and your Salesforce. As a marketing professional you need to collaborate with your salespeople to get that. You can very much see with paid promotion, you can see it instantaneously by adding goals to the backend.

I guess it depends on whether you’re doing direct sales or branding. With branding, things like number of followers and retweets are more important whereas direct sales it’s how many people followed this tagged link and through the content funnel ended up making a purchase.

I think Twitter has now reached a stage where it’s a mature channel. It’s not something we’re just playing around with anymore. And because of that, board of directors and C management are asking for more substantial ROI figures. They’re being tougher with marketing to prove ROI. I think even when it comes to the branding, they still want to see the value to sales, that leads are being generated. I think we’re going to see more discussion around measuring ROI definitely throughout the next 12 months.

Is the advice to start dipping your toes in and spending small amounts of money on test campaigns?

Absolutely. You don’t have to spend a huge amount of money at all. The feedback is instant, and you can tweak something in a few seconds. By running tests, you’ll figure out very quickly what works for you. One of the things I always recommend, if you’re running paid Twitter ads, take advantage of all the cards that Twitter offers, whether it’s the website card, the lead generation card, and there are loads of cards for rich media.

And I’m guessing that before you spend a penny on Twitter that you should make sure that everything having to do with your brand has responsive design and is mobile ready since Twitter’s userbase is so heavily mobile-focused.

You do have the option to only do Twitter ads to desktop users, but I think personally that’s a mistake. If I’m running an ad I’d definitely go with the mobile uses and make sure that my site is mobile-optimized, that my landing page is, otherwise I think you’re going to see a lower ROI.


This article is excerpted from my book: Your Guide to Twitter Marketing. I sought out some of the world’s most powerful marketers and grilled them on their subject matter expertise. This book gives you direct insight into how the world’s top marketers approach Twitter and use it to drive sales and influence.

amazon twitter marketing