The Unfocused Focus Group: The Power of Social Media Monitoring

When I was in high school I participated in a focus group about deodorant. I sat in a room with a bunch of girls that I had never met and was asked to share my memories of deodorant and give feedback on the smells that I enjoyed. The most memorable part of the experience was a girl who shared that she began using deodorant after her mother told her that she smelled like, “A meatpacking plant.” Her delivery was excellent – completely straight faced with no hint of emotion. It was the highlight of the focus group, although I’m pretty confident that the company who paid for that focus group did not enjoy it as much as I did.

Now this was “back in the day” (within the past 10 years) but not so far back that I don’t remember how much I was paid. For less than two hours of my time I made $60 and they gave me cookies. There were probably 5-7 girls in the room with me, each of whom were given $60. We were not the only focus group and I can only hope that they got something more than “girls will use deodorant when shamed by their mothers” out of it. But why all of this talk about how much we were paid? ROI, my friends.

Let’s fast forward to the glorious present, where teens tweet, brands want you to like them, and public content is indexed for your searching pleasure. How could that company get better information today? How could they expand their focus group while refining their data, and without paying for every bit of feedback? Two words: social media.

Your focus group is out there, tweeting, posting, and blogging about their deepest darkest desires, offhand thoughts, likes, and dislikes. They’re talking about your industry, your brand, your products, and even your employees. The social media listening tools that are available are incredibly powerful and allow brands to monitor whatever keywords they desire. For the first time, you have an opportunity to get unfiltered feedback, offered up in real time and without prompting.

If you’re reading this with a questioning mind, and I hope you are, you’re probably thinking: “What happens if that deodorant brand wanted to know what got young women between the ages of 13 and 18 to wear deodorant for the first time? Is it possible to move from monitoring to engaging in order to ask specific questions of specific audiences?” (I love it when you ask questions.)

Let’s respond to your questions by asking three questions:

  • Does this brand have a Facebook Page?
  • Does this brand have the ability to purchase Facebook Ads targeting females between the ages of 13 and 18?
  • Does this brand have the ability to build a campaign soliciting stories through a branded landing page?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, the brand can take their focus group from 5-7 girls uncomfortably answering questions for money, to thousands of girls answering questions for fun. People will contribute to your market research without expecting payment if you position the ask properly. Less cost, more quality – and high quantities of – information. ROI, my friends.

It’s time to unfocus your focus group.

When she’s not working as a marketing manager for Make Me Social, Mandi Frishman enjoys perusing the internet for mentions of her dog, Emma. During her time studying at The University of Florida, Mandi became convinced in the power of learning through play. She has since committed herself to playing (and learning) all day, every day.



Filed under Mandi Frishman, Social Media

2 responses to “The Unfocused Focus Group: The Power of Social Media Monitoring

  1. I’m sure your focus group leader got far more out of it than parental shame and embarrassment. 🙂 That aside, one of the great things of a focus group is that they know for sure they are talking to teenagers as opposed to the social media space where they could be talking to 60 year men for all they know. That’s one of the challenges that social media researchers and marketers are still working to solve. It will come!

    • Agreed, it is not a perfect process and the anonymity offered by the internet can pose some challenges. As you said, it is something being worked on and advances keep coming. It’s an exciting time.

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