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Let research light the way

It’s not about you.

In life, and in marketing, that can sometimes be a difficult idea to accept. We are all naturally egocentric, and that’s okay. But in order to truly connect with anyone – friends, family, customers, members, prospects – you need to see the world from their perspective.

That’s why I love data. There’s an abundance of free data available online, and cross-referencing what you know about your customers/members/constituents with readily available sources of information can reveal some blind spots in how you’re communicating with them.

Pew Research publishes loads of data on all sorts of topics. This handy fact sheet on social media use offers some interactive tools to help you assess how well your outreach is aligning with your customers’ preferences and behavior.

In many organizations, the staff responsible for updating and maintaining social media channels are young, and that’s for good reason. As the data illustrate (and most of us just know instinctively), young people have always been the first in the pool when it comes to social media and are the ones responsible for propelling newer platforms to mainstream adoption (see: Instagram).

The potential pitfall in turning everything over to a 20-something recent college grad, however, is that their enthusiasm for new and trendy may take valuable time and energy away from slightly less sexy but more relevant channels for your customers.

Be sure to check your assumptions against the research periodically – at least a couple of times a year.

A word to the wise: Make sure the sources you reference are reputable. Depending on the specific information you’re after, Pew Research, the Brookings Institution, the RAND Corporation, the U.S. Census Bureau and other large, public or nonprofit research institutions publish regularly, share their methodology and present it beautifully. There are lots of people on the web peddling junky pseudoscience in an effort to grab your attention. Don’t fall for it.

And another word to the wise: As much as I love a beautiful graph, you should always truth-check your findings by talking to your customers. Do not hesitate to chat them up, formally or informally. Be curious about who they are, how they found you, where else they shop, where they get their information and more. You will gain invaluable insights that will drive your marketing, content development and purchasing.

What do you wish you understood better? Leave me a comment and let’s see if we can find it.

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