You Should Be Caught Using Twitter At Work

Sure, you use social networks to keep up with your friends, share vacation photos, and let everyone know that you're traveling to Singapore for work. But using these networks for research can be extremely valuable to you and your business. Here's how.

Conduct research. Run any basic search on social tagging networks such as Delicious or Digg. On complex topics, you're likely to surface more meaningful information than you would in a Google search because it's been tagged by expert users. Think of it as handpicked topic results based on user votes, similar to the way retail sites, such as Amazon, surface favorite products based on community votes.

Gather user feedback. Researching opinions, such as product feedback, is another crafty, low-cost way to use social network sites for information. Log on to Twitter right now to find all the consumer feedback you want on the movies released this past weekend; on what people think of their AT&T cell phone service; or their outlook on the economy.

If you don't find information on the topic you're looking for, throw out a question to the community on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, or any other network. Encourage a few members in your network to forward the question to extend its reach. Before you know it, you'll have quality insights that might have taken weeks to gather through traditional consumer research methods.

Find opinion leaders. Another great benefit of using social networks is that you can identify and build relationships with opinion leaders and trend setters that can be invaluable for testing or diffusing information. I realized how useful these networks can be when I saw a posting on Facebook from a reporter looking for interviewees for a news segment. He was quickly able to find volunteers who fit his target and wanted to be on TV.

Some will argue that results can be biased since some networks are skewed to certain behavioral types, such as technology enthusiasts, and to those more willing to share their opinions. So although these searches shouldn't replace your primary research, they offer an excellent gut check to make sure you're headed in the right direction, or give you some new ideas. It's also a great way to find people to interview for your primary research.

Next time you have a question, and you're on your way to Google, take a detour to Delicious, Digg, Facebook, Imeem, or Twitter. You might be surprised by what you find, and that could be a wonderful thing.

4 comments about "You Should Be Caught Using Twitter At Work".
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  1. Cat Wagman from Working Words, Inc., March 26, 2009 at 8:37 a.m.

    Hello, Jason!

    As a writer and speaker, I am always looking for resources online, especially experts for quotes, etc.

    Thank you for your suggestions on the alternatives to my usual search methods.

    Have a delightful day!

  2. Dan Kaslow from Be OnBoard, March 26, 2009 at 11:34 a.m.

    Your article provided many valuable ideas to ponder. Picking up on your point about the value of social networks as a research tool, I'm a big proponent and have been surprised that this function seems to be rarely considered by many (particularly those "of an age" marketers). When I was a consultant specializing in qualitative market research, I found that (in the old days), I could get a quick sense of the market with a relatively modest number of phone calls or a well-selected focus group. I always noted to clients that this was clearly not a statistically-valid research sample, but by assessing the credibility of the responder, I could find some highly valid themes emerging, and didn't need to conduct a more conventional large-scale survey. The same holds true for using social networks,

  3. Deborah Smith, March 26, 2009 at 12:55 p.m.

    Twitter is my favorite tool for research as well as drawing readers to our different blogs. It truly should be a writer's best friend.

  4. Michael Herman from iCrossing, March 26, 2009 at 2:19 p.m.

    Another excellent way to use Twitter and other social networks is to find those are favorable toward your company/product/service in order to send a request for a link to your site from their site.

    It usually doesn't take much effort to determine if the social user runs a site or blog. From there, an email message showing genuine appreciation for their support of your company/product/service with a request to consider linking to and/or writing/blogging about and linking to your site.

    This strategy helps make every email count when implementing a link building strategy.

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