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SOCIAL MEDIA: Social media and market research

Online communities, blogs and forums are presenting new opportunities for marketers to research their audiences in innovative ways. A report by Forrester Research, published in December, goes as far as to say that social media samples, such as that provided by business networking site LinkedIn, are of high enough quality that B2B market researchers "would be remiss not to attempt to leverage it to the greatest extent possible."

Formal research versus informal 'desk' research
On the possibilities inherent within social media, experts are careful to distinguish between two types: Formal market research, such as that described in the above-mentioned Forrester report, entitled Social media offer some relief for high-quality B2B market research sample; and informal desk research, which may be as simple as manually searching your company name online and assessing what you find amongst the results.

Oliver Truman, research manager at B2B International, is quick to make this distinction. "We're involved in the fairly disciplined researching of industrial markets," he says. "But B2B brands can use blogs, social networks, and so on, for informal, qualitative research too."