Social media reveals an ever-expanding amount of detail and insights about consumer preferences and attitudes – what they watch, what they buy, who they vote for, and much more. The ongoing online conversations can be informative, but how do marketers and agencies sift through the noise to extract meaningful insight about consumer attitudes? Some agencies are developing proprietary measures, and marketers' increasing focus on Facebook as their primary social media marketing vehicle is fueling a number of startups seeking to cash in on the consumer insights to be gained from Facebook. A number of firms are launching Facebook contests and surveys, segmenting the large Facebook user base into focus groups. Others are adopting big data techniques to create algorithms to mine insights from Facebook social traffic.

Facebook is by far the largest social network with 900 million users; almost three times the number of Twitter users (310 million) and four times the number of users in LinkedIn (255 million) and Pinterest (250 million). Facebook has global reach and demographic diversity so it's the perfect social medium to tap the consumer conscience.

Here are just some of the options available to marketers seeking to tap Facebook for consumer research.

Monitoring Real-time Consumer Engagement

SproutSocial, Oktopost, Hyperactivate and dozens of other emerging social media management platforms all provide the means to measure consumer engagement, and can be used to gauge consumer attitudes if you know how to apply the analytics. Chicago-based SproutSocial is one of the companies that is using Facebook as a means to monitor consumer interest as it relates to real-time brand data. SproutSocial provides a central platform to manage Facebook interaction, publishing content, measuring social engagement, and then using analytics tools to improve performance. The company's customers include top brands such as AMD, McDonald's, Nokia, and Pepsi. While this kind of platform is ideal for managing social media marketing campaigns, it can be useful for monitoring consumer reactions as well.

Benchmarking Facebook Performance

Other companies like Simply Measured are providing more sophisticated social media analysis tools. Simply Measured has a cross-platform social media monitoring platform that lets advertisers analyze engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other social media channels. And its dashboard technology provides a visual snapshot of engagement to better understand what interests Facebook followers.

What makes Simply Measured interesting is its ability to benchmark performance against competitors and monitor for consumer interest. The system can generate reports that can measure consumer social media traffic against the competition. It also can track keywords and hashtags to determine what is trending on which social channels; all useful information to see how you can use Facebook for marketing.

Extrapolating Facebook Likes

Facebook users leave a trail of areas of interest, their politics, income, and more through their online activity. What an individual "Likes" and the content they post tells you a lot about them. Analytics firms like Socialtyze and Cubeyou are extracting that information and aggregating it across the Facebook user population.

Socialtyze has been using Facebook Data for two years to identify brands' super fans, as defined by three criteria: Engagement, Sentiment and Influence. The company's proprietary Qu technology analyzes the demographic and psychographic characteristics of a Facebook Fan Page and then uses the data to run look-alike audience targeting. John Bohan, Socialtyze CEO, advises "super fan look-alike targeting has been extremely powerful -- it always outperforms almost other ad target groups as it relates to cost-per-download, video view sign-up, sale, etc… We are essentially looking at the most powerful vocal advocates of a brand and locating people who look just like them in terms of age, gender, likes, interests and many other categories." Specific Socialtyze "Super Fan" examples of return-on-investment performance results are shared below.

Cubeyou is a research startup with offices in Silicon Valley and Milan, Italy, that has developed a means of mining Facebook for detailed insight into consumer attitudes about almost any brand. The company's proprietary algorithm correlates Facebook content to reveal patterns about specific types of consumers. Cubeyou's research premise is that "you are what you like," so they track more than 250 million active Facebook users across the globe to determine what they like, and how those likes reflect brand preference and buying patterns.

Cubeyou monitors Facebook activity to create a cross-section of consumer preferences that can be assembled for market research. Cubeyou has created 150 specific data points spanning demographics, psychographics, personality types, areas of interest, and other metrics. These data points are mixed and matched to provide profiles of target consumers.

For example, if a marketing manager at Nike wants to benchmark customers against the athletic shoe industry, a Cubeyou report reveals customer demographics (gender, age, geography); preferences in music, books, television programs, etc., and reveals the types of sports they follow and the fact they have an environmental conscience and tend to like outdoor activities.

What Cubeyou has discovered is that consumers are willing to tell you almost anything you care to know about their habits and attitudes through their online activity. Compared to conventional market research strategies, Cubeyou has tapped into a rich vein of market research that delivers actionable insight quickly.

As consumers continue to share their likes and dislikes on social media it will revolutionize market research. Companies like Socialtyze, SproutSocial, Simply Measured, Cubeyou and several others are exploring new ways to tap consumer attitudes.

Socialtyze Super Fan Performance Return-on-Investment
Provided by Socialtyze exclusively to MyersBizNet
1) Client: Entertainment Website
Objective: App Installs
Facebook Ad Results by Target Audience-
Super Fan Look-alikes: $0.81per install
Fans: $1.17 per install
Keyword Interests: $1.84 per install
Friend of Fans: $4.34 per install

2) Client: Concert Promoter
Objective: Sell Tickets to a 3 Day Concert Weekend
Facebook Ad Results by Target Audience-
Super Fan Look-alikes: $13.36 per sale
Keyword Interests: $26.26 per sale
Fans: $29.93 per sale
Custom Audiences from E-mails: $46.48 per sale
Friends of Fans: $224.72 per sale

3) Movie Studio
Objective: Trailer Views
Facebook Ad Results by Target Audience-
Super Fan Look-alikes - $0.13 per view
Fans: $0.27 per view
Friends of Fans - $0.34 per view

Disclosure: MyersBizNet chairman Jack Myers is an advisor to Socialtyze.

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