#4 See What People Are Talking About – 10 Ways Small Businesses Can Use Social Media to Save Time

In this installment of our series “10 Ways Small Business Can Use Social Media to Save Time,” readers will learn how Social Media can be used as a way to evaluate trends in your target market.

Large corporations spend millions of dollars prowling the streets, seeing what the trends in fashion, music, and culture are. They rely on feedback from companies like Gallup, the Nielsen Ratings, and American Consumer Opinion to see what’s hot and what’s not. As a small business, you don’t have the same level of resources. But that’s okay – you can get your own “feet on the street” feedback quickly and easily using your Social Media Networks. Here are some of the tools you can use to see what’s hot right now:

Twitter Trends. Go to http://search.twitter.com/. Right below the search box you’ll see a list of trending topics. If there’s a topic you want to track, you can click on the name and subscribe to the RSS feed so that you can keep track of a trending topic.

Hashtags. If you want to follow a particular topic (“internet marketing,” “Redsox,” etc.) via Twitter, you can simply follow the hashtag (#) associated with that subject. You can also subscribe to the RSS feed to be notified whenever new tweets on that topic are posted.

Facebook and LinkedIn Groups. It’s a little more difficult to see what’s trending on Facebook or LinkedIn, but you can see what groups are growing and what topics are hot. Do a search on either site for interesting topics that are relevant to your business. You can also join groups that look interesting and pertinent to your business. You can receive messages directly to your email inbox or opt to log into your account to read. Either way is a great tactic for keeping tabs on what people in your niche are talking about.

Yahoo! and Google Groups. Go to groups.yahoo.com or groups.google.com to view thousands upon thousands of groups for interests as varied as recycling, Rutgers University alums, or Philadelphia Eagles fans. Join the ones appropriate for your interests, browse topics, and see suggestions at http://custom.yahoo.com/bestofyahoogroups/.

YouTube “Most Viewed.” Head over to http://www.youtube.com/videos?feature=mh to see the most viewed videos of the day. You can even see top results by category (Education, Howto & Style, Nonprofits & Activism, News & Politics, Comedy, People & Blogs, etc.) The results may surprise you!

Stumbleupon, Technorati, Alltop. Check out any of these blog aggregators to see what others find interesting, read-worthy, or titillating. You can see hot topics, trending news, and just plain weird stuff. You can also use these sites to research popular blogs in your niche.

As you can see, there is no need to hire a reporter to tell you what’s happening in your target market. You can easily track it all from your computer – no reporter’s notebook required.

In the next post readers will learn how Social Media can help small business owners find essential resources to help keep business growing.

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