When I need quick research and a Google search does not get me what I need, I sometimes turn to Twitter and other social media tools online.

Coming from an ad agency perspective, I often engage in rapid R&D for business accounts and client projects to uncover intelligence about a subject matter or industry in the discovery phase for marketing, advertising and digital engagements. To stay in scope, I must gather the most useful information in the least amount of time to inform and inspire messaging, branding, design and technology.

In addition to the core qualitative, quantitative and competitive research, our “design research” may include methods, principals, ethnography, history, trends, popular culture, case studies, artifacts, and anecdotes, as well as visual and verbal language. All are important to our creative process in developing solutions (i.e., a marketing plan, ad campaign, brand identity, etc.) that are potent and engaging.

Twitter can sometimes help me discover information in an atypical path where you can scan digital blips floating across the internet such as trends, facts, opinions, brand marketing, advertising and design visuals. As a creative director focused on branding, marketing, advertising and digital, my research needs tend to be focused on visuals, trends and summarized findings rather than deep data and metrics.

 

Search Tool

In a basic twitter search (in menu bar at top) for “healthcare marketing trends”, I find search results with links to industry analysis, trends and even a “Forecast 2023”. I learn that there is a relevant organization for the topic: @SHSMDAHA, which is The Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD) of the American Hospital Association. Their profile provides me with a path of discovery.

 

#Hashtag

SHSMD happens to include hashtags on related topics – listing four of them prominently in their profile: #hcmktg #hcsm #HITsm #mHealth – which provides me direct paths as links to any tweets that users in the twitterverse may be sending out with related content. Seeing this listing in their profile tells me that this organization is following a collection of top streams on their topic of interest in healthcare marketing.

 

Search Results Tabs for Photos, Videos and more

When you perform a search on Twitter and get the results page, take note that you will see several tabs at the top of the page which allow you to sort even further.

Example A. If I click on the Accounts tab, I get personal users, organizations, publications and companies who are using the keywords “healthcare marketing trends”. This is a useful way to find new streams of content and resources on my topic.

Example B. If I click on the photos tab, I can see all of the latest photos on the topic such as infographics, charts, advertisements and even a cover page with link to a publication on “Big Trends in 2015 affecting healthcare marketing strategy & implementation”.

 

An example path to discovery

Also in the search results, I discover another image that shows a photo of a healthcare provider with the title, “The future of healthcare in 3 trends”. The link leads to a Hubspot blog article on the topic with a link to an interesting chart, Mayo Clinic’s Health Care Social Media List. For social media healthcare marketers, you will have discovered a resource dedicated to “a professional social network for people and organizations using online digital communication tools to enhance health care delivery and advance careers.”

Lists

A list is a curated group of Twitter users and a great way to organize your interests. You can create a list or subscriber to others. You can define your own lists in the profile and settings dropdown navigation under your profile thumbnail photo in top right of navigation bar. To subscribe to/follow other people’s lists, click on Lists when viewing someone’s profile.

 

Other Search

An advanced search may help you seek out some specifics based on key words, people, location, date range or a new unique search field.

 

Crowdsourcing Approach

Ask questions. You can use Twitter to engage in research findings by getting people to help with gathering information, making observations, undertaking data analysis, etc. And now you can create your own poll and see the results instantly with Twitter Polls.

 

Conclusion

With millions of tweets in real time, a database of information is at our reach. With good detective work, alternative research methods can provide effective paths to uncover best practices or trends in topics you may need to investigate for your marketing projects.