The market research industry continues to be all abuzz about social media. Will it reshape the industry? Or is it useless as an information source? Most social media analysts believe consumer-generated media will broaden the horizons available to a market research team and insights gleaned from social media intelligence will be an integral part of every market research study.
Why Social Media is Effective
First, it can help provide an understanding of the conversations already taking place. This understanding can be useful in a number of ways.
- It can help shape what questions to ask and ensure the terminology matches that of the customer
- Social intelligence can provide real-time insight into the mind of the consumer.
- Social intelligence can provide a more detailed view into the audience.
- The advantage of media intelligence can predict opinions and behavior.
- Social media enables you to reach out directly to your customers or targets and address their concerns in a media type and manner comfortable to them.
Social media may offer advantages, but there are a number of concerns that should be addressed before beginning a social intelligence program.
People aren’t talking about the questions I’m asking
There’s an easy solution to this: ask the question yourself. Social media, in all its aspects, is a great tool for two-way conversations. Post a question on your Facebook page and see what responses you get. Better yet, use a listening platform to ensure you’re collecting all conversations. If you’re just monitoring one or two feeds, say Twitter and Facebook, you’ll miss quite a few conversations. A platform designed to mine all data relevant to your industry will provide much more detailed information. If you’re still missing the answers you’re looking for, it might make sense to re-evaluate and confirm the questions you’re asking are indeed relevant to the consumer.
It’s not a representative sample
Sophisticated social media measurement tools will allow you to drill down into audience segments, so you can control who’s generating the information. These tools also allow unique opportunities to eliminate selection bias. Rather than asking someone if they’re interested in health, for example, you can choose to focus on information from sites discussing health issues, or specific conversations about health-oriented products.
Sometimes a representative sample isn’t necessarily the right answer. In some audience segments, a New York Times article will have a strong persuasive effect on consumers. If you can weight and measure that effectively, you’ll gain insights above and beyond what a standard sample might provide.
The metrics aren’t accurate
Automated sentiment, across the board, is around 40-60% accurate. This is true of all text analytics tools, though sentiment scores tend to be slightly lower in social media because of the slang used and the shortness of the conversation. Ideally, though, sentiment will be just one part of a broader equation used to weight social media results. The visibility of the message, the credibility of the forum and media where the post originated in, and the relevance of that publication to the target audience should all be weighted along with sentiment.
The applicability of other traditional market research metrics is still an open question. Sometimes media data can be correlated; other times it cannot. This does not mean there is a flaw in social media data. Rather, think of it as a new system with new metrics. Social media is a new tool; old measurements may not apply. That doesn’t mean it’s useless; it means new metrics must be used.
Social media is owned by another department.
The insights an integrated media platform can provide apply across an organization. Market research, customer satisfaction, integrated/web marketing, digital strategy, customer care, communications, R&D, sales and even HR teams can all gain useful intelligence. Social media measurement initially “belonged” to communications, but that is changing rapidly. Now, many firms are creating cross functional social intelligence teams to ensure this data is shared appropriately across departments.
The Provider is Key
Choosing the proper social media partner will help mitigate many of the concerns market research teams typically face in adopting social media. Many tools are not designed to provide measurements or insights and will not be a good fit for a metrics-focused market research team. Firms that are able to recognize the value gained from social media intelligence, avoid the common pitfalls, and find a trusted partner in this area will find their results and insights are far more powerful than before.