Social media is a weird and wonderful place, full of everything from existential and political debates to videos of cute animals and easy recipes. But for those within market research or the business industries, social media also serves a different function; it is a home that transcends physical and demographic barriers for many online communities, a fact which is common knowledge to businesses who often take advantage of this in the name of insights.
Benefits of Social Media
While there are sources that doubt the inherent value of social media intelligence, there are many benefits to be gained. This platform offers a window for businesses to observe the opinions and interactions of their customers, which helps them better understand their audience, past, present, and future. Not only that, but it is also a platform that allows businesses and their audience to communicate freely with one another, and analytics from this communication enables brands to determine which social media channel is better for communication, customer service, and advertising.
With this information, brands can set themselves up on the social media platforms that best cater for their needs, and once this is set up the insights generated allow brands to create better targeted content. The type of research that would best accompany this objective is an insight-led research structure. This is a continuous schedule that forms and reforms around any new insights and results that are generated through social media.
Understanding consumers is one thing, but social media intelligence also allows brands to understand their competitors’ strategies and better their own in response. The monitoring of marketing campaigns and strategies can be used primarily in two ways: one is on a continual basis to monitor the general reception of the brand, products and services; and two, to monitor the results of specific marketing campaigns either of their own or those of their competitors.
Social media is a platform of invention and creativity, but with consumers and brands alike reinventing themselves, fitting the insights into active research schedule works to eliminate unreliability.
However, this isn’t to say that there aren’t negative aspects of social media to consider. The beauty of social media is that it allows brands to invent and reinvent themselves in accordance to what consumers like at the time, but this concept also applies to consumers. It is a platform of creativity and invention, which is to say that all members can reinvent their public image just as much as brands, and so any insights that can be gained might not be as reliable as dedicated online research communities can claim to be.
Despite the careful considerations needed, social media intelligence has a great role to play when fitting in properly within research schedules.
There are a few considerations that should be bared in mind with this particular jigsaw. The first is how much weight and emphasis do you want to put onto social media within this experience? The second is how can social intelligence and market research fit together naturally in a way that allows them to complement each other? The answer to both of these questions is dependent on the research objectives and the desired results.
This is a simple step. Most businesses know exactly what their desired results are, even if they’re not specific results and rather answers to the questions they need answered in order to proceed with development plans. But, knowing what sort of answers a brand needs is incredibly important to building the research schedule that is needed to generate accurate and valuable insights. Different research methods will generate different types of insights.
As is commonly known, quantitative research will produce insights that answer typical ‘what’ questions, whereas qualitative research goes deeper in order to discover the deeper meaning behind consumer behaviours. If you’re interested in reading more, our other blog explores a few different research methods which produce different types of insights.
Quantitative Research with Social Media
Within quantitative research, it’s hard to get the necessary context that brings insights to life. When social media research is conducted in conjunction to social media intelligence, the context generate pairs well with the insights gained from the survey, casting the insights in a different light, a more accurate light that will enable businesses to take full advantage of their research.
But context isn’t everything. Most of the objectives that social insights will meet when placed in conjunction with quantitative research will typically revolve around monitoring and information gathering the behaviours and opinions of a more surface, context-less nature.
Monitoring social media activity in regards to perception gauging can enable businesses to continuously or periodically measure the success of marketing campaigns and product/service updates, and identify out-dated and ineffective customer service policies. This information can be used alone, but is better to be used in conjunction with surveys and polls in order to boost the quality of the insights gained.
Insight-led and Qualitative Research with Social Media
Social media intelligence can be incorporated very neatly into insight-led research schedules, which are a continuous research schedule characterised by its evolutionary nature. The fluid changes occur when key insights are generated or further insights into another area are needed. Fluid and adaptable, an insight-led approach is best for long-term studies and is easily influenced by social media intelligence when insights or issues arise.
Social media can be used for recruitment purposes for qualitative research studies. Specifically, for focus groups and creative research tasks such as concept testing and user experience research. There are always going to be a number of consumers on social media who are posting the same patterns of comments, either negative or positive, which allows brands to identify and invite them to take part in research to get to the root of any issues, improvements, or upgrades.
While the research participants are shaping and moulding the content, products, and services of the brand, the reception of the changes that are rolled out can be seen from the continuous monitoring of social media, and any suggestions for improvements can be brought to the current research community to see if there is any concurrence, which will eliminate most potential for false feedback.
Seeing the Bigger Picture
The ways I’ve described above are only a couple of brief examples of how social media intelligence can fit into different types of research schedules. The important part is fitting it into a tailored research schedule.
For the money and effort that businesses spend on research, working through a carefully planned schedule with different facets (such as social media listening) to capture the full spectrum of consumer feedback will generate valuable insights that will prove their return on the investment tenfold through informed decision-making and improved business operation.
The original version of this article appeared on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.