After attending a recent conference, I was surprised at how few market research executives were on Twitter. Twitter is now one of the Top 20 most visited sites in the United States, and it is a promisingly fertile area for supporting social media research. Where status updates on Facebook are typically visible only to a user’s friends or specified subgroup of friends, 99 percent of status updates on Twitter are visible to anyone. This transparency makes them great for market research purposes.

On Twitter, hashtags are single words (no spaces allowed) that start with a number sign and are used to categorize content. For instance, in the following tweet, the blue #marketresearch indicates this message is about market research.

While hashtags can just be used to indicate a tweet is about a particular subject, they are also often followed by people as an ad hoc community. One of the most active research communities on Twitter is the #MRX community, but #MRX is just one of many hashtags used by researchers.

The top 10 hashtags used by the #MRX community in the past two weeks were:

  1. #marketresearch – The generic research hashtag.
  2. #newmr – The hashtag used for discussions of New MR, led by @RayPoynter.
  3. #ngmr – The hashtag used by the Next Generation MR LinkedIn group, led by @TomHCAnderson.
  4. #qrca – Used by the Qualitative Research Consultants Association.
  5. #sawtooth2010 – A temporary hashtag, used for tweets from the 2010 Sawtooth conference.
  6. #qrca10 – A temporary hashtag, used for the QRCA 2010 conference
  7. #conjoint – Tweetsrelated to conjoint analysis, popularized by the Sawtooth conference.
  8. #mr – Another generic market research tag, though one used by many other communities as well (some people tag the honorific Mr. as #Mr. for some reason).
  9. #marketing – Ageneric tag for tweets relating to marketing.
  10. #pricing – A generic tag for tweets relating to pricing.

If you’re not comfortable joining Twitter, by all means browse some of the links above to see what your peers are discussing; you’ll find them pointing out recent new stories and blog posts of note. They’re rarely tweeting what they had for breakfast – being market researchers, if a tweet is about breakfast, it’s more likely to be whether it’s best to ask a survey question about a typical breakfast or the respondent’s most recent breakfast.

So what’s the value of Twitter? Besides keeping up with what your market research peers are talking about, it’s a great way to network and meet others in the industry. Many of those reasons you go to a research conference – to learn new things and meet new people – can be accomplished with Twitter. For instance, I met the following people on Twitter and then met them in real life: Katherine Korostoff (@ResearchRocks) of Research Rockstar, Michaela Mora of Relevant Insights (@rinsights), Cathy Harrison (@VirtualMR) and Julie Kurd (@julie1research) of Chadwick Martin Bailey, and many others.