Here’s a rundown of some ways to approach initial research online.
First things first, set out what you want to find out. Is it about discovery; finding out about an industry or researching what people are saying about your business? These are many other reasons to conduct research but the blog post was already getting long….
The above will change how you research. It’s also important to remember and understand what type of language and terminology your customers or potential customers use vs. how you might talk about your products/business. The below is ignoring all the beautiful, clean valid data presume you have internally.
Google Trends allows you to you to see what’s trending based on search term frequency along with Twitter’s Trending Topics by tweet volume and Facebook Trends. All of which can be refined by location. Noting that Facebook will only show you public posts so you’ll get a limited snapshot of specific results. Likewise, Pinterest can be used for trends which are more visual.
Boolean Search is just a way of writing logic using operators such as AND, OR, NOT etc. However, Google being Google doesn’t follow this logic (e.g “NOT” doesn’t work) – they use the following Google Search Operators to help you refine your search queries and search smarter. You can also search via news or blogs on Google to specify the source of the results you want.
Find out what people are people saying
Pretty much the first thing I do when working on a new project is to set up Google Alerts. I set these up on brand terms as well as competitors and then Google sends me an email when they crawl something online matching the search term. It’s a great way to keep up to date on what’s being pushed out by businesses as well as what others are saying.
Depending on what the subject is, I find setting up searches on Tweetdeck is a good way to search through what’s been said on Twitter (of course this might not be where your audience are!). There are 100s of tools out there that rate sentiment and collate data from a range of social media sources but for me, nothing beats humans doing the research. You can also search most social media sites but remember the likes of Facebook will only show you publicly shared statuses.
Cheap & Dirty Research
To get a really initial impression on what the general public think of you or you competitors websites try something like Peek which gives you a 5-minute video review of your website from an online reviewer. Bear in mind, however, this won’t be robust but can give you some initial insights to know where to start digging. There’s nothing like first impressions!
When it comes to looking at competitors online, try checking it out from home and on mobile. A friend of mine told me about how they found out the IP of their main competitors HQ and served them an old version of their website. Turns out most people only research their competitors at work and so for a while, were able to make changes without their competitor having any idea.
Great if you are in a sales role – the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and good god damn searching can uncover a lot about people whom you might be doing business with. Using the above some years back, I discovered a new colleague was actually featured quite heavily in a local newspaper for robbery and assault, which he’d clearly forgotten to mention. There are also a number of apps which will do the digging for you.
There are also a number of apps which will do the digging for you. Crystal looks at how a person writes about themselves online and formulates a personality type for them, making recommendations for how you should communicate with them online. Not sure if this is compelet WB but I found it useful.
What do you usually start with research online?