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The Social Media Intelligence Blog

Insights on social media intelligence, marketing, and consumer insight

Supercharging Market Research With Social Media Research

By Tiffany Tran  •  June 8, 2015


Supercharging Market Research With Social Media Research

Posted by: Tiffany Tran on June 8, 2015

Today, enterprises and ad agencies alike harness the power of social data for a variety of use cases including brand monitoring, campaign development and measurement, competitive benchmarking, strategic planning, and even new product research.

This has provided brands and ad agencies an alternative, real-time, method of research, those more experienced with market research can provide an even greater depth of insight from social data.

Interviews, face-to-face focus groups, shopalongs, behavioral observations, and surveys are a traditional market researcher’s bread and butter.

Combining social media research with these traditional methods can be powerful, yet there is little discussion on how the two complement each other.

When you bring the two together, you can:

1. Bring the ‘Wow’ Factor to Your Pitches / Recommendations

Wow Factor to Pitches

RFPs and new business opportunities frequently come in at the worst time and/or at the last minute. In response, many ad agencies are utilizing social media intelligence tools to quickly get up to speed about a brand or campaign and discover new insight in order to create killer new business pitches.

This same approach can be leveraged by market researchers, but with the added benefit of being able to draw from a greater degree of expertise with data analysis.

If you are pitching new business, you can score brownie points by identifying new problems that your prospect didn’t know existed and make better suggestions on the different research options to consider. (More on this in Section 4)

If you are presenting recommendations to a client, social data can demonstrate a forward thinking approach and can provide a sense of validation in research findings.(More on this in Section 5)

2. Understand Brands / Topics Faster

Understand Faster

Googling a brand or topic can only show you so much, especially when working with a brand or topic about which you aren’t particularly familiar.

Looking at social data will give researchers a good spectrum of what people are naturally discussing around brand/topic “X”.

In addition, researchers are also able to quickly gauge how people generally feel (sentiment scoring) about a particular subject or brand. This serves as a good base knowledge about any industry, brand or topic before the structuring process of the research even begins.

3. Ask Better Questions With Relevant Language

Ask Better Questions

Topic clouds, also known as “word clouds“, are often used when trying to understand the most prominent topics around a specific subject.

Many users of social media intelligence platforms find this feature incredibly helpful for understanding what terms are being used to discuss their topic of research.

Furthermore, from being able to extract the general consensus about a topic to specific demographic information like — gender and audience interests, social media research also helps understand the who behind the what.

By having a grasp of the language being used, and who is using it, researchers are able to craft better questions for other methods of research like surveys and focus groups.

4. Discover New Insights to Help Structure Research Direction

Discover New Insights

It can be challenging to figure out where your research should start and end.

For example, let’s say a client comes to you and explains that their beverage, House Brown, a craft root beer, has been experiencing a decline in sales and wants to figure out how they could better promote the product.

By incorporating social media research as a preliminary research tactic, researchers can very quickly identify key elements relevant to their client’s topic.

Is there an alternative product people are referencing to instead of your client’s brand? Have taste preferences for root beer consumers changed?

Whatever the case may be, researchers in turn, can use insights gleaned from social media data to create new hypotheses for their research that can then be further explored through all variety of research methods.

5. Build Your Client’s Confidence In Research Findings & Recommendations

Connect with Research

While it is essential to show the validity of your research through great control and concrete reliability tests, the practice of incorporating different forms research in presentation will accentuate your ability to be up-to-date and dynamic within the industry.

For instance, if you were to present to your client a tactical recommendation to pursue the mix drink segment in promotions of their root beer, you would be able to better support that recommendation based on both conducted interviews and social media research.

Conducted Interviews

  • 76% of respondents had positive responses to craft root beer
  • 50% of respondents were under the age of 28
  • 68% of respondents drink an alcoholic beverage at least 1 to 2 times weekly
  • 72% of respondents enjoy mixed drinks

Social Media Data

  • Within the past 2 years, purchase intent expressed around the topic of “root beer” online has increased by 8% year-over-year (An indication that the taste in preference has not changed for the worst over the past few years).
  • Of all conversations about “root beer” mentioned with other alcoholic beverages, 65% of conversations are generated by audiences under the age of 24 (Identifying a target audience that might resonate best with root beer mixed drinks promotions).
  • Online conversations of those who have drank root beer within the last year, often talk about the summer time, football, and camping (Understanding key interests of this particular segment).

While this example is a very basic pairing of what you can do with the two components, it demonstrates how you can go beyond the norm of presenting traditional research data.

Life saver tube

The points listed above highlight the added benefits one could have if they chose to incorporate social media research with their own practices.

An important thing to note is that as social media research grows, more and more businesses will look at social media insights as an upfront need rather than a perk.

If not now, when?


There are many platforms available that provide different features, including but not limited to: engagement, sentiment scoring, measurement of different themes and emotions, audience segmentation, and demographic data.

However, on a foundational level, there are three essential areas that should be investigated when vetting social media intelligence platforms for market research.

  1. Broad and normalized data collection. Do not hesitate to ask why they collect data in the manner that they do! Data collection should be representative of the population and collected from vast amounts channels. However, some providers are not as representative of the population because of heavier collections in one channel (more data is not necessarily good data).
  2. High degree of accuracy and recall. How accurate is the platform on sentiment scoring? Do not take accuracy at face value and ask how they validate their accuracy (they should provide you with not only an accuracy score, but a recall number as well).
  3. Ease of data accessibility. Data accessibility and granularity is key because this allows you to dive into the raw data yourself. How easy is it for you to access the data? Ask about their exporting options and if you have the ability to integrate raw social data with your own research.

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