📂 Use online sleuthing to mine reviews and conduct competitive analysis

Today's newsletter is proudly supported by Dofollow 🎉

In an era where content creation is easier than ever, content authority is the key to ranking high and maximizing SEO. And despite what the Threadbois will tell you, backlinks are still king. That's why I'm excited to partner with Dofollow as my go-to recommendation for sourcing high-quality backlinks. Going from the bottom of page 1 to the top can be the difference of thousands of dollars in MRR. And with so many shady SEO practitioners out there, I'm glad to have a trustworthy team I can confidently recommend. Make sure to mention "Corey" or "Swipe Files."

📖 The following is an excerpt from my work-in-progress book, Founding Marketing. It's a (very) rough draft of thoughts, notes, and research... so feel free to reply with your feedback on what I should expand more on and what needs to be clarified. Enjoy!

While talking to customers directly is the best primary source of data, you can get equally insightful data from secondary sources as well.

And just because you’re not directly talking to customers doesn’t mean that none of the principles apply anymore. Still, don’t mention that you’re doing customer research, start from a place of empathy and curiosity, ask the right questions, and keep asking why.

Another great primer to conducting secondary research is to practice what Amy Hoy’s Sales Safari. Think of it as a mission: your job is to collect as much data from relevant sources as you can to uncover the triggers, motivations, fears, and desires of people.

As you go through each source, record patterns and trends you see. Write down the exact words and phrases people use. Categorize what you find as you go along to surface the trends.

Reddit

Reddit offers a unique opportunity for anyone looking to do customer research with its enormous size and breadth of content. As of this writing, Reddit is the 5th most popular website in the United States and the 17th most popular website in the world. And according to the last available estimates, there are over 330 million users and over 1.2 million subreddits.

Len Markidan’s guide to irresistible content ideas using Reddit can also be translated for customer research. He explains a simple process to mine Reddit for relevant data:

  • Find the most relevant subreddits: Use the search bar to input keywords and phrases related to your product or service. Reddit will suggest subreddits based on your query that you can search through.
  • Search for specific keywords and phrases: Once in a specific subreddit, use the search function again to search for keywords and phrases like “how to,” “help me,” “struggle with,” “figure out,” and more variations.
  • Scan posts and comments: Sort the results by comments and search through each relevant post and the top voted comments to quickly surface what people are saying and feeling.
  • Engage the community: For any recent posts or comments, practice digging deeper by asking commenters to elaborate on what they mean or what they’re experiencing. You may even share an experience of your own.

Be careful not to comment on old posts or abuse any of the rules of each subreddit. Although it can be tedious to search through each subreddit with keyword or phrase variations, there are tons of insights to mine from Reddit.

Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups offer similar advantages as Reddit with over 2.3 billion users, and while the exact number of Facebook Groups is unknown, it’s safe to estimate that there are hundreds of millions of Facebook Groups.

Mining Facebook Groups for customer research is similar to Reddit, with a few nuances:

  • Find the most relevant groups: Use the Facebook search bar to input keywords and phrases related to your product or service and then click on “Groups” to only see groups.
  • Visit or request to join groups: On the left side, select “Public Groups” under “Show Only” to visit groups without having to join them. Then select “Closed Groups” under “Show Only” and request to join groups that will have to approve you before you can see any of the group content.
  • Search for specific keywords and phrases for each group: Use the search function inside each group for indicative terms like “how to,” “help me,” “struggle with,” “figure out,” and more variations. Filter by most popular, most recent, or even by year posted.
  • Scan comments and conversations: Expand posts with a lot of comments to see what others are saying how they’re responding to each post.

Spend your time wisely with Facebook Groups as you could end up in a few rabbit holes that make you wonder where your last three and a half hours went. Focus on the most promising groups and quickly scan for insights instead of methodically working through every post and comment.

Quora

The latest estimates state Quora has over 300 million monthly users and have hundreds of thousands of “Topics,” one of the main features of the platform where questions and answers are categorized and made available for users to follow.

One of the unique characteristics of Quora is that it can be searched and organized by questions, answers, posts, profiles, topics, blogs, and spaces. Many of these can be followed, which notify users of new activity.

Here’s how to make the most of Quora for customer research:

  • Start with searching for broad keywords and phrases: Search for short keywords or broad phrase to see which bring the most promising results to look into.
  • Work through different types of search results: Once you’ve found the keywords and phrases that give you the best results, filter by “Type” and work through the results to find the content you want to investigate.
  • Follow or note the most relevant results: Quora automatically sorts results by follower count or relevance to your search so your only job is to investigate each one from the top down to see what you can learn. Quora also does some of the work for you in being able to follow or save the content you want to note.

Quora is specially fit to get data on both questions and answers. Note the tone of how users ask questions, give context to their situations, and how users answer.

Niche online communities, forums, and review sites

For every subreddit, Facebook Group, and Quora topic, there’s a niche online community, forum, or review site. You can apply the same general process of searching for relevant keywords and phrases, filtering results, and then investigating content to most other platforms.

Here are a few ways to find more places to look:

  • Use Google: A plain search with variations like “ communities/forums/groups/membership” let’s Google do its job to try to find you what you’re looking for. More advanced search operators can help you with more specific searches, like finding related websites by using the related:”yoursite.com operator for example.
  • Find Slack communities:Slofile curates Slack communities and allows you to search by category, language, and region. This Airtable also has a pretty comprehensive list you can sort by topic or location.
  • Find Mighty Networks: Mighty Networks are free and paid online memberships that allow creators to create an online community for anyone. You can also search for specific topics or type of people using their Explore feature.
  • Search through Review Sites: Sites like G2 and Capterra are ripe with insight about what customers love and hate about certain software products.
  • Search through customer communities: Many large companies have customer communities and forums to foster engagement amongst customers and better collect feedback. Want to get inside the heads of Salesforce users? Check out the Trailblazer Community. Want to learn about HubSpot users? Check out the HubSpot Community. Want to better understand Webflow users? Check out the Webflow Forums.
  • (Soon) use Sparktoro: SparkToro is a new software company from Moz founder, Rand Fishkin, working on a product to make it easier to discover the websites, blogs, podcasts, social accounts, and publications that reach your audience.

You can also discover niche online communities by simply asking! Whether it’s directly in a conversation or captured in a survey, asking which online communities they’re a part of can surface ones you may not have discovered otherwise.

Twitter

Twitter has over 330 million monthly active users and has traditionally been the social media platform of choice for much of the tech world. The challenge with Twitter is the vast amount of noise. With the limitation of 280 characters per post, users are encouraged to post often. The Twitter feed can feel like drinking from a firehose of information.

But if you know how to wield it, it can also be a great source for customer research:

  • Use Twitter’s advanced search: Search for specific keywords or phrases, see what people are saying about certain accounts, and monitor hashtags.
  • Lookout for popular threads: Every blue moon, a thread blows up and garners hundreds or thousands of comments. Industry thought-leaders, experts, and public figures often tweet things that evoke a response from followers. Users could also ask a question or run a poll that gives you data you probably wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else, like this tweet from Hiten Shah.
  • Create lists to monitor accounts: Lists are the secret weapon of power users to find the signal in the noise of the normal Twitter feed. Not only can you create your own public or private lists to follow certain accounts and hashtags, but you can also subscribe to other lists that have already been curated. You can easily find Twitter lists to subscribe to by visiting someone’s profile and seeing which lists they’re a part of, subscribed to, or created.

Twitter is a bit more difficult to search for and find relevant content since there’s so much to sift through, so it’s better to treat Twitter as an ongoing source of customer research you can monitor.

—Corey

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