You are struck with an idea for the “next big thing.” Maybe you are jazzed with the idea exactly how you have imagined it. Or maybe you know you are onto something but need some real feedback before you do a hard-launch.
In both cases, market testing is the next wise step before spending time and money rolling an idea out with all the systems to support it. You need to see if the world finds your idea as big of a deal as you do.
“Market testing is just for product-based models,” you might think. “Service-based models are different. I have to offer them up-front, all-or-nothing.” We have all heard this line before, but we have got news: if you rush into launching anything—product or service—it could be a waste of critical resources, especially in these critical times.
Even if your business has an established customer base for your existing services, now is not the time to skip service market testing. Since it is a fundamental practice for getting authentic feedback, the next natural question is where this testing should take place.
Turning to social media is a natural fit. Where else are people authentic (or, better put, transparent), if not on social? It is there that the good, the bad and the ugly are aired out for 3.6 billion social media users—that number is huge!
For those business owners who are thinking about adding new services to the mix, this article is for you. Trust us—however you feel now about your big idea, you will know in a short time whether consumers love it or REALLY do not on social media. Let us begin!
Added benefits of testing a service on social media
Market testing a service is a lot like market testing a product on social media. Both center around the following benefits:
When you put yourself out there for open feedback on social media, you are giving your target customers an extraordinarily transparent—even vulnerable—look into your business. You are asking for feedback that other users will see.
It is not some anonymous survey. In fact, the bigger your social following, the more you are “putting yourself out there” for all to see. This makes your company seem far more real and relatable and gives consumers a sense of having a say in what your offerings are.
Content, of course, can be easily shared on social media. That is what the platforms were designed to do! This is equally true for your market testing. If a post about a new service idea takes off, consider embedding it into your website or emails.
This actually brings two benefits: you cast the net of your social test a little wider and you get added traffic to your social profiles. Of course, sharing on social media goes two ways.
Your power to share your social posts in emails or on a website diminishes when other users share your post and it goes viral. This can be a risk for brands who are specifically market testing to refine messaging and gauge consumer reactions before a launch.
To mitigate this, be extra deliberate about which social channels you test your services on. For example, if you have an active and engaging Facebook page and a smaller, more exclusive group for “brand ambassadors,” test your service in the smaller audience first so you have more control about how your group members react.
c. Smooth transition
Once you have successfully tested your service, the transition to social media sales and ads will be smoother if you tested on the same social network you push the offer out on. Your metrics will all be in the same place, too, so you can compare testing feedback with your ads post-launch.
With so many different social networks available, you can further segment the testing of your service based on which platforms you choose. The response in your Pinterest audience could be radically different than on Facebook.
For example, Generation Z has now aged into the limelight in terms of consumer spending, representing 2X to 3X the spending on social media as compared with the average consumer, according to a survey by BigCommerce.
Instagram and Snapchat are the platforms where they spend the most. For a Generation X or Millennial audience, on the other hand, Facebook remains the platform of choice.
How to test-market a new service on social media
Step 1: Social listening
Social media provides you with multiple opportunities to make sure you “get it just right” before launching a service. Consider it your personal arena to get that Goldilocks standard for the specific audience you are after.
The first step is to employ social listening to crosscheck general trends against your idea. Traditionally speaking, social listening is defined as the practice of tracking “mentions” of your brand across digital channels.
- Who has mentioned your brand in a recent review?
- Who has posted a rant about a bad interaction with a customer service rep?
Any instance of your brand being mentioned by name is something you want to be aware of (for the sake of your reputation and to assess what your customers need from you).
Taking social listening to the next level involves looking out for mentions of competitors or of the services you are thinking of offering. By seeing what consumers say about the service in general, you can glean insights into how people view the service as what needs are not being met by current providers.
Social listening can take the form of polls and surveys you publish, too. This allows you to ask directly whether your great idea would be of interest to your followers, which then gives you a better idea as to how much you might be willing to spend testing and developing it.
After “listening” for a few weeks, you will have better information to fine-tune your service idea and prepare to launch your test.
Step 2: Build a minimum viable service
With all that social listening you will be ready to build a minimum viable service. This is a common practice to develop both the service and your business as demand scales up.
The minimum viable service should be the absolute simplest form of your idea. In many cases, this is such a small version of the big idea that you can even offer it for free as a lead magnet for early adopters.
Step 3: Prep your content
Content is king, they say. Content in 2021 is even more powerful—with consumers spending more than twice as much time
consuming content this year than in 2019.
This means businesses must deliver top-notch content to stand out, even if all they are doing is market testing a service. To prepare your content for the same, you are better off leveraging the same model that product-based brands use.
Think of each idea for a new service as part of your “inventory.” You have to “import” that full service inventory into a creative space where you can visualise the content that goes with it.
This is partly because your content will be related service-to-service, and also because every platform you offer a service on will be required to be presented in different formats. You will be organizing:
- Blogs you can organically mention your service in
- Press releases you will push out when your service is officially available
- Social posts you will program to inform your target audience about the launch
- Any other resources (such as infographics, white papers) that educate, entertain or inform your target audience and stokes interest in the service you want to offer
Managing this content—especially if you have multiple versions of content for multiple channels—can be done manually. Pool all your content in one place and create a spreadsheet to track the content type, the destination channel, the meta data, accompanying photos and videos, and the last date modified.
Remember: any content you publish on social media will be competing with the endless stream of content competing for users’ attention. You must invest in great photos, videos and other content to make an impression. Consider developing a hashtag for your service market test, too.
Step 4: Get partners on board
If you are using anyone else’s services to support the delivery of your own, those are potential partners for your social media market test. Start by making a list of the vendors, affiliates and other partners you work with, and then make a database of the links to their social profiles.
Reach out individually and ask them to share your service. Of course, they will need to understand it first and how you plan to talk about it with potential customers. If you can promote their business on your profile in return, that will result in bigger visibility for your market test when their followers see the partner’s name tagged in your posts.
Now “partners” could mean influencers, too. This is a biggie for social media testing—especially once you have officially launched your new service. Brands are expected to spend around $15 billion on influencer marketing by the start of 2022 based on recent Mediakix data.
Social media has become so entrenched in people’s lives that the role of influencers has stretched well beyond shopping, so these relationships can be as much about your new service as they are about your bigger brand.
Step 5: The actual testing
At last, you are ready to launch the actual service test! This might come in the form of offering your minimum viable service for free or for a reduced cost, or offering it to an extremely selective group of consumers based on an avatar profile built in social ads.
Test ads are especially helpful since they can be so targeted. The social networks you are testing on have an extraordinary amount of data on their users that you can tap into, too. At this stage, you can also continue your social listening for specific triggers that you believe your service can improve or resolve.
Seize these opportunities when you see related commentary or content posted in groups, because asking about your service in that specific context will give you real-world-scenario feedback.
Step 6: Get personal
Once you do get feedback, say thank you! On social media, that is usually as simple as leaving a comment, but you can score even bigger points by reaching out in direct messages. Interact as much as you can with these folks because they might be able to give you more insight as you discuss the service further.
Once you have test-marketed your service, it is time to come up with a marketing plan. Get into it and hash out all the feedback you received into actionable steps.
- Was one social channel bringing more positive feedback than another?
- What added needs were uncovered?
- What did you learn about the competition?
- What are consumers saying about this service in general?
Launching a new service or product can be one of the most exciting times for your business. Having the right support systems in place to test first and then build a better process from the feedback is how brands make the most of their natural strengths while positioning themselves for success in a hyper-competitive market.
Alex Borzo is a content contributor at Amber Engine, a software company passionate about eCommerce. The company’s fast and simple PIM software gets sellers, distributors and brands to Amazon and other online marketplaces in weeks instead of months.