Millions of people provide their unsolicited opinions online every single minute of the day, making social media the world’s largest focus group.
Even so, this incredibly valuable source of insight is still vastly underutilized, particularly in market research.
While many market researchers have been hesitant to incorporate social media research into their practices, other researchers have harnessed the power of social data, to realize measurable and sometimes transformational value.
In a recent interview with one of Infegy’s market research partners, I got to hear first hand how they made the move to integrate social media research and why it became an integral part of every single client project.
Integrating social media research with traditional research
In 2012, the members of the research team started having serious discussions about leveraging social media data in their research.
They knew there was value in social data, they just weren’t sure how to source it effectively and how to integrate it with their other data sources.
To address the first issue, the team set out to review vendors to find the one they felt could fulfill their particular use cases.
While they found that many providers focus on broad measurement, only a few were built with the rigor of market research in mind.
After selecting a vendor for social media insights, the team looked at how they would combine the data with other in-house data sources.
They identified a few sources for preliminary testing and then outlined a plan for later expansion that would include more inputs.
With those two obstacles out of the way, they began implementation.
How social media research works in practice
Informing Survey Questions to Produce Better Results
The research team uses social media research to identify new variables to include in surveys, refine the existing survey language to coincide with how consumers are actually talking online, and measure how these variables change over time within the social landscape.
In practice, they were able to identify that the connotation of the words “cheap” and “inexpensive” changed post-recession.
Prior to the financial recession these words were used in a negative context to a greater degree, while after the recession, consumers began using the words much more positively.
This data highlighted how the use of language by the general population can change based on the health of the economy.
Discovering The Product Attributes That Resonate With Customers
Applying text analysis to social data to uncover the implicit meaning behind what people are saying about products allows researchers to discover what specific product attributes are the most important to the given sample of consumers.
In taking this approach, researchers found that the scent of a certain household cleaner elicited high levels of passionate language in reference to the brand.
Further research into scent-related conversations found that the clean smell associated with the product made people feel assured that what they had just used it on was actually clean. They also found the scent to be pleasant in general.
As a result, researchers recommended messaging changes that resonated with consumers’ attachment to smell and the smell’s signal of assured cleanliness. The final messaging for the brand portrayed the scent as a measure of accomplishment.
Making Data-Driven Recommendations to Improve Brand Reputation
The company combines social data with survey, web, qualitative, and secondary sources into an advanced monitor that identifies and predicts what a company could introduce, modify, or elevate in order to bring about positive shifts to the company’s brand reputation.
By correlating signals across several different data sources, researchers are able to gain a clearer picture of brand health and provide better recommendations.
Identifying and Activating Key Influencers
Researchers perform social research to understand how people are using, discussing, and recommending both products and categories.
Then, they identify the problems people discuss and provide suggestions for how to activate influencers on social media with a conversation about addressing these problems.
By tapping into consumer discussions as they’re happening online, researchers are able to identify major problems faster and provide better recommendations for corrective action.
Linking Brand Loyalty Signals to the Marketing Funnel
Analysts use their social tool’s built-in text analysis to measure what percentage of the social media content contains statements and opinions signifying loyalty to the brand being discussed.
Then, they map this to the loyalty stage within the marketing funnel to help brands measure their effectiveness at creating brand advocates and repeat customers.
The Impact of Social Media Research
Shifting the way things have been done for decades is a big change, and because of this, incorporating social media research was a slow process in the beginning.
However, once their teams were able to adapt, insights from social media quickly became a crucial part of the research process.
Now, whenever an analyst begins a new project, they almost always start out with preliminary research of social media data.
The company’s forward-thinking approach to integrating social media into their practices has also significantly impressed existing clients and new business.
The impact of social media data for this market research company has completely transformed their approach, but they’re not alone.
As Mary Aviles and Sandra Bauman elaborated in their post, Working Hand in Hand: Qualitative MR and Social Media Research, “[Social media research] provides added value to our overall qualitative research—-allowing us to ask better questions, use better vocabulary or recruit better respondents.”
*Our client noted that, in addition to using Infegy Atlas to supply social media data and insights, they also leverage a network analysis tool to identify the most relevant channels and people for certain subjects, brands and tools.