The Market Research Event: Leveraging Facebook at Taco Bell to Enhance Traditional Research

Here I am in San Diego, with a slight cold not withstanding, it’s already off to a good start. The first session I attended this morning is worthy of a blog post and hopefully a conversation or two once I get back to the office.

The session was titled: Leveraging Social Media at Taco Bell to enhance traditional research insights. It was presented by Linda Ashbrook, Senior manager of Consumer Insights at, you guessed it, Taco Bell.

Now personally I can’t stand their food, (but I’m not exactly their target either) — but everyone has to admire their brand prowess and now some of the tools they use for planning product and marketing efforts have been shared. Very cool stuff.

Linda and her team of two other people started running online private panels using Facebook this year. She estimates they ran 20 short panels with just three people doing this part0time. Which is vital as who has extra people to spare? You’d be shocked to know how small SurveyGizmo’s own marketing team is!

They use these private groups on Facebook to ask direct questions to participants about new products, marketing concepts, ads — anything. Linda says she can even ask them to do tasks (like eat all your meals in the car for the next day — or go to a competitor, order a meal for $2, and tell us what you think) and they are more than willing to write pages of commentary — many even send photos and videos.

Now Linda does incentivize people for participating in the panels, typically $100 to $300 dollars. However, from the sounds of it she may be over paying, as many of the participants enjoy the opportunity and communication.

Here are some key points I took away from Linda’s presentation.

* Hire a Social Media Expert to help with recruiting (see Facebook ad tip at bottom of the article)
* Use a *private* Facebook group — so it will be confidential and will not be listed for your competition to find if they search Facebook
* Screen your participants before inviting them into your private Facebook group (use SurveyGizmo — they use SurveyMonkey… sigh)
* Don’t invite more than 20 people to one ‘panel’ (she calls them panels –which is what this technique best simulates)
* Have a moderator who’s responsibility it is to answer questions and monitor participation.
* Don’t be afraid to kick someone out if they are not participating — especially if you are paying them!
* Figure out a way to make this more quantitative too — throw the occasional survey in as a way to spice up communications (OK, that’s my suggestion not hers — I’m biased)

Linda also shared a sneaky (or perhaps well known) fact about Facebook ads: If you don’t place ads often — you won’t get the prime ad placement as often as accounts that do! So use a Social Media expert and have them place the ads on their account.

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