Here's a novel idea for small businesses to try: use your social media accountants as an innovation and marketing laboratory for your brand! You'll increase your engagement levels, find out fascinating and useful intel, and your followers will be excited to take an active role in your brand!
Put on your white lab coat and grab a clipboard, it's time to observe and study the natural behaviors of your followers and fans in a real world environment.
Take a look at how your customers are already interacting with your social accountants- are they actively speaking to you? Are they using your brand to make a statement about themselves (examples: gym-related posts, retail therapy, or celebration posts of drinks) or to connect with others (examples: needing coffee to function, wine after a hard day, or simply a love of a brand)? Sometimes the best marketing and branding strategy is to go with what your users have already decided. Run with the associations or uses that are already being used by your customers instead of starting from scratch, or working against the tides of consumer opinion. When someone tags your company, look into the context and read the comments to understand why they are sharing your brand.
You may find that your customers have come up with their own brand association (comforting, cures frustration) that you were previously unaware of - go with it!
This is also a great way to identify pain points, or negative, unwanted associations. Do people think your product is primarily used in a too specific way, or by an overly specific group of people? It might be time to launch a counter marketing campaign to help the public see your brand in a new light!
Basic surveys can be impersonal and limiting, and your followers won't feel like they're truly giving input. Ask your followers for their opinion, and then actively respond in the comments.
Give them a choice between two new ideas, logos or potential new products. Ask them which they like better and why! Not only will you get great feedback that will support any business changes you're considering, but it's a great way to test out how well you "know" your fans. Did they pick the product or logo you thought they might?
If customers know that by following your social accountants, they'll get to be active participants in company plans and offerings, they'll be incentivized to follow you and keep up with your accountants.
Social media is a wonderful, powerful tool that can put you in direct contact with both your actual customers and their social connects - your possible audience is infinite (up to the number of users of the social network anyway). Social media is a wonderful, low cost way to test market demand for your new ideas!
Word to the wise: be careful to remain in control of your post- questions that can spiral into sarcasm or "trolling" could go viral for the wrong reasons, and sometimes bad press IS bad.
Just as with actual scientific research, the best way to collect data is often when your "test subjects" do not know they're being tested. If you're toying around with the idea of a new brand voice or new content angle, try it out on your social networks and measure the engagement or reception as compared to what you normally do. Social posts have short lives overall; the newsfeeds typically want to surface new or recent content. If the post doesn't work, it can easily be deleted after a few days. Experiment with images, tone, voice, content, emphasis on one aspect of the business over the other, or communication styles. This is yet another brilliant way to learn more about your followers- what they like, what makes them laugh, what moves them to share!
A great place to get started is to experiment with things that will make your customers proud of you. A commitment to your community? The use of organic or recycled materials? Supporting the troops? Supporting women in business? Social media users are more likely to share content that makes them feel proud, or to share posts in a congratulatory, "you go guys!" way.
Like any good scientific researcher, control your variables so you'll be able to come to actual conclusions. This means, don't try too many new things in one post, or else you won't know which new tactic was the winning one!
Let us know what laboratory testing you've tried, and what worked best for you!