The rage of social media might have calmed down a bit, but the possibilities and opportunities associated with it are still being explored. Companies are scuttling towards social media sites to advertise and announce their products and services and as consumers, we are gladly accepting this marketing trend! Apart from marketing, social media gives us a chance to discuss and share with fellow users (sometimes mockingly), our opinions and experiences on a wide range of issues, from books to movies, from sports to food, from automobiles to software, from clothes to things that are too explicit to be put on a public blog!
When I was planning to get a new cellphone, the first choice for getting opinions was to ask my friends but then common sense prevailed (along with a reminder of past regrets) and I browsed through a couple of forums that talked about which cellphones are popular and which ones are a fail!
Social groups like these, where we get to learn and criticize, are not only beneficial for us but also for marketing researchers, as they help them study and analyze the tastes, opinions, needs and desires of consumers. This method of qualitative research that utilizes social media data is known as internet ethnography or ‘netnography’. Market analysts and researchers get to peek into online social groups to identify and understand the behavior of consumers. The reasons why it is becoming popular are that it is far less time consuming compared to conventional ethnography and at the same time, it is unobtrusive for consumers (After my share of bad experiences with pestering marketing analysts asking for my ‘valuable’ feedback, I am thankful for netnography!).
Marketing researchers have started realizing the contingencies associated with social media techniques and are making the most of it through blogosphere, micro-blogging, podcasting, social networking sites and the likes. Netnography provides them a chance to learn about the likes and dislikes of consumers and get unbiased opinions and reviews about their products and services. Moreover, it provides them with an uninterrupted connection with customers without spending heaps of money.
The pace at which internet seems to be developing, it has made necessary for marketing researchers to identify and use new tools and techniques to understand their customers. Netnography presents them with a clandestine approach to obtain deep strategic insights, invent innovative ideas to enhance their brand image, performance and campaign management. So the next time you are grumbling on a public forum about a gadget that disappointed you, maybe the makers are listening!