What I haven't seen written up however, is what a fabulous market research tool Twitter can be. When we first decided to jump into the educational market, I knew very little about that space. So I decided to start following interesting educators on Twitter. At first none of them followed me back, but I didn't care about that because my motive was to learn more about them. I was blown away by the type of information that sped my way 140 characters at a time. Incredibly valuable tidbits such as:
- Which upcoming conferences were interesting
- What was interesting at any given conferences
- What was going on for teachers at any point in the school year
- What were their biggest frustrations
- How technology was having an impact on their professional lives - both positive and negative
After a month or so I could tell you so much about the educational twitter community. I even had tweets memorized and would quote them to anyone who would listen. I knew which educational blogs were most respected. I knew who the leaders were in the community. I found out who would share new cool technology first (the true early adopters), but also who would really dig in and learn something and share more detailed and nuanced information about new tools. I wanted to reach both, but I knew that second group would be the most valuable.
Once I started tweeting, I was able to create tweets that would be truly useful to my handful of followers. But that handful starting re-tweeting and my following grew quite quickly. Then twitter morphed for me from a pure market research tool to a customer communication tool. Even today, a couple of years later, my favorite thing to do is to share fun things with our twitter community. I've only met in person a small handful of them and yet I feel like they are our friends and I can have (short!) conversations with them and really learn from their advice.
Not all target markets are as active on twitter as the educators, but I would still highly recommend it to anyone trying to learn a new market, it is fast, easy, and free!