When social media got its start, mobile apps were in their infancy. Facebook didn’t release its first app until 2010 — three years after the iPhone’s debut.

But in the six years since, social has largely ditched the desktop. Snapchat, YikYak, and Confide are entirely mobile. More than half of Facebook’s users are now mobile-only, and mobile claims 86 percent of Twitter users’ time on the site.

Mobile and Social: The Key to Consumers’ ‘Why’

Today, social apps are undeniably a part of the customer journey, and marketers who don’t cater to mobile users are leaving money on the table. But to get a pulse on consumers, it isn’t enough to wander through the flurry of 140-character tweets and Snapchat stories, nor is it enough to look at top trends. Those tell you what people are talking about, but they can’t tell you why — and the “why” is key to customer connections.

Consider designer Rebecca Minkoff’s Instagram-fueled lineup at the 2015 New York Fashion Week. Minkoff’s Instagram fans selected designs for the runway, giving her a glimpse into their preferences. This interactive approach brought her closer to customers, of course, but it missed valuable entrepreneurial knowledge. Minkoff learned little about why customers favored one look over another — information she could’ve used to shape her future offerings and boost sales.

That’s where mobile surveys shine. They excel at uncovering respondents’ “why,” and they’re functional across geographies, time zones, and demographics. They’re designed for the small screen, meaning that the survey length, design, and format suit the context in which they’re taken. Within an hour, mobile surveys can return hundreds of quality responses for little cost. What’s more, they’re effective across topics ranging from sentiment about the “Brexit” to respondents’ Valentine’s Day plans.

Use Surveys to Soup Up Social

While survey insights can benefit brands directly, surveying also has hidden, indirect perks. It boosts social engagement, for instance, which brands critically need. Although it has become the quickest line to customers, research indicates that 51 percent of brands consider social their most challenging channel.

So, if your company is struggling with social, use surveys to boost your game. Here’s how:

1. Segment customers to improve resonance.

Without a thorough understanding of your customers, it’s easy to embarrass your brand on social. Just ask JCPenney, which took jeers and jabs from customers and brands alike during its #TweetingWithMittens Super Bowl campaign.

To build more resonant campaigns, study your audience first. Use segmentation tools such as VALS (values, attitudes, and lifestyles) to create customer personas. Then, construct posts to appeal to a specific segment. For instance, you might survey social users and find that a large chunk are price-conscious Millennials. When you’re courting these customers via social, you might make ’90s-era cultural references and highlight your product’s value. Remember, if you’re targeting everybody, you won’t truly reach anybody.

2. Use two-way communication to prevent social snafus.

Every time audience members pick up their phones, they’re consuming or sharing information. So don’t be the brand that doesn’t know how to listen; use social platforms to initiate two-way conversations via surveys and polls. Get product feedback, learn about customers’ journeys, and build rapport.

Giving customers a channel for feedback also prevents pent-up horror stories from surfacing unexpectedly. In 2012, McDonald’s launched its #mcdstories campaign to solicit positive testimonials. But to the burger brand’s chagrin, customers tweeted horror stories rather than the rosy recollections the company had hoped for. Had the company conducted mobile surveys first, it could have quietly addressed customers’ concerns and avoided the Twitter tragedy.

3. Move quickly to capitalize on cultural moments.

Social media is all about joining consumer trends and responding to newsworthy events. But to do so effectively, social media marketers must move quickly. Oreo, for instance, has become a culture-jacking expert on social. When the lights went dark at the 2013 Super Bowl, the cookie company tweeted a photo captioned, “You can still dunk in the dark,” which captured the social spotlight in a moment’s notice.

When a cultural trend pops up on Twitter, use surveys to quickly gauge your audience’s response to news and pop culture events as they unfold. Learning customers’ perspectives on current events is the first and best step toward building viral social content.

To get closer to your audience, you need to meet them where they are. And with mobile claiming eight of every 10 minutes people spend on social media, mobile research tools might just be your brand’s ticket into customers’ social circles.