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Find Your Market Segments … Socially

April 13, 2013

There’s a new shortcut for finding your best market segments – it’s social media.  Your ‘ideal customer profile’ can reveal itself to you … if you hang out in the right circles and pay attention to what’s going on in the social media sphere.  Two online boutiques, ModCloth and Nasty Girl, provide excellent case studies on how to do this successfully.

ModCloth created a program called Be The Buyer to coax its market into revealing itselfThrough this program, prospective customers view clothing samples from trade shows online and vote on which ones the company should sell. According to founder Susan Gregg, 17 million people have chimed in since the program started.

            17 million people, and each one providing a profile.   Just a few years ago, a company like ModCloth would rely on a combination of market research and guesswork to select their target markets.  In the era of social media, your customers can do this work for you.  Using Be The Buyer, ModCloth learns who their customers are and what products they want to buy.   The success of this program has allowed the company to raise $25 million to expand their business.

Regardless of the size of your business, social media can be a powerful tool to understand the profiles of your ideal customers.  Here are a few specific tactics:

 

Discover the Communities

If you want to listen to your customers, go where they hang out online.  If you’re selling camera lenses, find the Google+ groups and Twitter hashtags that camera buffs use.  Join the Pinterest groups and follow the Facebook and LinkedIn pages of the influencers.  Market segments are composed of people with common interests, and people with common interests are already finding each other on social media.  Your job is to find them and learn what they want (without being too blatantly commercial about it).

This is how Sophia Amorusa built a $100 million online retail business called Nasty Gal.  She found ‘friends’ for her MySpace page by reaching out to sites of complementary brands such as Nylon, the music and fashion magazine.  She gave prizes to Facebook fans who came up with the best names for her products. When her market segments evolve and fashion tastes change, Amorusa will learn this first hand from the 100,000+ followers that visit her site for at least six minutes every day.

Find the Influencers

Whatever your product is, chances are high that there are bloggers and opinion leaders on social media sites that are influencing what customers think about it.  Find these influencers and build relationships with them. One of many places to look is Forbes’ list of the Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers.

 

Invite Your Customers Through Collaboration

ModCloth and Nasty Girl invited their customers to participate in the design and merchandising process. With social media, there are many ways to invite your customers to collaborate in your business.  Some examples:

  • Allow them to write product reviews on your site;
  • Create an interactive blog on related topics;
  • Engage them with Twitter hashtags or Meetups;
  • Create a Pinterest page with your latest and greatest

offerings and ask for feedback;

  • Reward active participants with giveaways and discounts.

For small to mid-size companies, one of the biggest advantages of using social media for market segmentation is the low cost of entry. It costs nothing to open an account on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest.  Once you get started, with a little time, creativity and planning, you can discover your best market segments before your competitors gets there.

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Follow Dave on Twitter: @wdavidpower

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