This post is part of a series on the use of social media in sensory and consumer panel management.
Compusense is just getting started with incorporating using social media with our own panels, and we’re doing a lot of learning as we go along. What we’re putting forward in these social media posts are the ideas, tips and best practices that we’ve picked up so far. There’s still a lot to know and the landscape of social media changes every day. We’ll be adjusting our approach as we proceed, but we’re applying what we learn as we grow.
Managing a panelist database can be a daunting endeavour. Keeping panelists aware of upcoming panels, recruiting new panelists, scheduling panels, updating contact and demographic information, and simply maintaining panelist interest can all be challenging tasks. Fortunately, making use of social networks can make this much easier and less time consuming.
While there are many new and growing social networks, Facebook and Twitter are taking the lead in both visibility and number of users, particularly in North America. Other sites like Friendster, Orkut and Hi5, are popular outside of the US and Canada, but aren’t showing the same kinds of user numbers as Facebook and Twitter.
Not Just For Friends
As of this past July, Facebook claims more than 500 million users worldwide. That user base is not just teens and young adults. I mentioned in an earlier post that recently one of the biggest growth segments has been the 55+ age group. Facebook is proving to be a great means for reaching a large number of people of a wide variety of demographics.
Taking your organization or business onto Facebook requires you to set up either a “Page” or a “Group”. This can be a source of confusion. “Pages” are intended for individuals or companies, and are much like a Facebook user profile, with some notable differences: other users can “Like” your organization; you can track the statistics of your page; and you can advertise your page on Facebook. We recommend using pages as opposed to groups, since you’re limited in your ability to track and promote your company or organization with a group.
Creating your Facebook page is pretty straightforward. If you’re looking for some ways to get started, review Facebook’s Pages Product Guide, read the Facebook Pages Manual and take a look at Mashable’s HOW TO: Set Up a Winning Facebook Fan Page.
Tweeting Your Way To User Engagement
The “other” big social network, Twitter, has over 190 million users and is growing quickly. Creating a new Twitter account is easy — simply sign up from the Twitter home page.
Customizing your Twitter profile is simple and essential to letting your followers know who you are and what you do. Besides posting a short description of your business and your web site, you can also include a profile photo and a background image. Many Twitter users take advantage of the background image to include their company logo and additional details about their company.
For an introduction to using Twitter for businesses, read Twitter 101 for Business.
Once you’ve created your Facebook page and your Twitter account, you’ll need to promote them in order to gain followers. There are a number of ways to promote your social media presence:
- Add Facebook and Twitter buttons or links to your web site.
- By “Liking” your own page, your Facebook friends will see you’ve liked it, and may do the same. Encourage others in your organization to do so as well.
- Invite others in your organization to follow your Twitter account.
- Create a Facebook “like” box which will allow you to post a box on your website to encourage users to “Like” your page.
- Add a Twitter widget to your web site.
- Email your existing panelists and invite them to “Like” your page on Facebook or follow you on Twitter to stay up to date with your latest panels and events.
- When you speak to them in person, encourage your panelists to find you on Facebook and Twitter.
Building Your Following
With both Facebook and Twitter, growing your audience requires that you’re posting content that interests people. In the context of building and maintaining a panel, engage users with posts and topics that are relevant to your testing and panel activities. The most obvious motivator is payment, whether that’s an actual cash payout (e.g. “$10 for participating in tomorrow’s chocolate panel”), some other kind of incentive (e.g. “Earn points in the company store”), or contributions to a local charity (e.g. “For every test you complete, we’ll donate to the local Food Bank”). Other motivators could include the promise of testing new products, participating in contests, or taking part in panel social events.
Bear in mind that it’s possible to post too much, so be selective in your postings. Just as it’s annoying to receive countless invitations to become a zombie, join the mafia or start your own farm, your followers won’t want to receive updates from you on an hourly basis. Vary the content of your posts and make them valuable to your followers and potential followers.
Social media is also about two-way communication. Your followers may address you directly through Facebook or Twitter so you’ll need to be ready to respond to them. Just as that applies to them, it also can work for you. Asking questions of your followers gives you a chance to get feedback quickly, and opens up the door for more conversation.