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Setting Client Expectations With Social Media Research

By Tiffany Tran  •  February 10, 2016


Setting Client Expectations With Social Media Research

Posted by: Tiffany Tran on February 10, 2016

I have seen plenty of examples where new and seasoned social media monitoring users get stumped with client requests on social media research.

How come there isn't enough data on Allegra within the past year? Why aren’t parents talking about buying their kids a new Xbox on Black Friday? How are we supposed to analyze Cheerio loving moms, if moms aren't talking enough about Cheerios?!

These examples of unanswered questions in turn make it difficult for analysts to deliver on client requests.

Little girl pulling out hair

Here's the thing though, fellow analysts, it's only straining if you allow it to be.

Working with the ocean

In order to alleviate frustrations down the road, you’ll have to set some ground rules with your own clients.

In order to set these expectations, first start by “getting real” with social media data. You must know that while it is great to have questions in mind,  not every question can be answered via social data. That's okay though! -- It’s just part of the art of social media research.

Just because you can't find enough data on people discussing specifically about let's say,  "Fruit Loops", does not mean you can’t gain compelling insight for that particular brand or client. Learn to switch your gears.

Have you thought about conversations around sugar consumption? What about the most common topics around moms discussing cereal? Is breakfast even the most popular time to eat cereal anymore? So many alternative questions that can still bring you relevant insights to your client. Don't let your frustrations on one unanswerable question get the best of you!

Social media research is new to many businesses and it might take a few tries to really understand what's attainable if you didn't have any prior experience using social media intelligence tools.


Whether you are new to the industry or simply find it difficult to effectively communicate the expectations of social media research to clients, here are  a few key things to keep in mind. By implementing these pointers, you’ll soon realize an improved relationship between you, your client, and social media intelligence:


    1. When you are first introducing SMI offerings to a client, always factor in, "How much does my client know about social media intelligence or using social data for research?" If the answer is, "not very much" (which is often the case), you'll  want to first educate them on the quality of social insights and what it can take it order to get those quality insights. 

      Quality insights can take time, creativity and lots of testing (answering questions through boolean query writing). You want a mutual understanding with your client, not to worry them with the strains of SM research. Some things in research can be very straightforward, like benchmarking against competitors and measuring overall brand health. Others things that are not so black and white in research are like, uncovering new business opportunities and understanding different cohorts of people -- those are the harder deliverables.

      Everyone may have a different approach when it comes to what can be gained from social media, but you should have a brief walk through on those harder asks and explain why those insights might be a bit more time consuming (i.e. lack of content volume on brand / topic, time to brainstorm new questions). The goal is to give your clients an understanding of your team’s process in finding those quality insights.


    2. Keep an open dialog with your clients. Instead of panicking because social isn’t working the way you want it to, turn back to your clients. I know, I know, this sounds odd but I think you’d be surprised! If your client’s initial questions were unable to be answered via social, loop them back in and bounce back and forth some ideas. When you talk to them, don’t just ask them for additional questions, contribute questions of your own  that would be still relevant and pertinent to your client’s initiatives. This shows that you are not only considerate and aware of your client’s curiosities, but you also allow yourself to creatively showcase your own team’s dynamic thinking in the process too.

      Tip: Research doesn’t have to something that is siloed. Make it a partnership.


    3. Lay out the general concept of what clients can expect from you upon delivery. Some analysts may say, “we’ll deliver a brand health analysis of our clients brand.” Okay, but what does that even mean? What does that all entail?

      Will you be doing a social trend analysis for your client over the past 5 years, a competitive analysis of the top three client competitors, product research with at least 3 unique findings? You and your team should work on a deliverable structure that you are comfortable with and use that as your pitching template.

      Tip: As the saying goes, “under promise, over deliver”. It’s essential that you create a structure that you are comfortable with so you don’t stress yourself or your client out in the process. If there are extra insights that you’d like to include, hooray! If not, you’ve at least hit what is expected. Remember, client perceptions of a lack in effort of a partnership, won’t ever be a good thing.


Link to the two biggest mistakes in social media analysis blog post


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