You have many options on the Internet to use for market research. Today you can connect with real people doing awesome thing without even leaving your kitchen table or home office. LinkedIn is a valuable tool to expand your market research beyond what was possible in the past. You can probably connect to almost anyone and learn about almost anyone by looking at LinkedIn.com profiles.
On LinkedIn you have a variety of ways to connect with the right people. You can use your contacts ,your contacts connections, and your entire overall network to help you locate the right people to talk to. Even if you’ve not yet connected to someone on LinkedIn.com you can bet they are likely there. If you know their name just search for them. You will have to upgrade your account on LinkedIn.com to get the most benefit out of researching others.
Do not join groups and post a lot of inconsequential spam, find and connect to people without an invite, or stuff your profile with inappropriate keywords hoping people will find you. Instead, be strategic about how you conduct research. It’s important to have a purpose and a goal before you even begin. If you don’t know what your purpose and goal is, how can you know where to start?
On LinkedIn.com groups, join them, introduce yourself, like and comment on discussions. Participation is key. Add in your own discussions and expertise, and only ask to connect to people with whom you’ve entered into real discussions. Better yet, ask them to connect to you if they desire within your discussion.
When you find people who are inside the organizations you want to research who have special expertise that you’d love to learn more about, be careful about how you approach them. It’s okay to conduct people searches and then look through connections to see if you’re already connected to someone who can make introductions.
But, do your homework first. Find out what you need to know about the person prior to making the connection because you might be able to discover what you need to know without the direct connection and if you do want a direct connection you’ll know why and be able to respond appropriately.
If you already have a large group of connections within your target audience try conducting a survey or a poll. This is a great way to research a new product or service and whether or not it has validity before investing too much time and money into it. Using LinkedIn.com for research is an excellent use for the network and will work best if you’re willing to upgrade your account.
Hashtags are great new addition to LinkedIn.com that will allow you to conduct research on any subject of your choosing. By searching and clicking on the active #hashtags you will find all the open discussions happening on LinkedIn.com about that topic using that #hashtag. Simply enter the #hashtag in the search engine on LinkedIn.com to get results.