Recently Q –Agentur für Forschung and linkfluence released an inventory of the German market research network. You can access the interactive dataviz here (which is highly recommended).
What can we learn from the results?
Well, first of all we learn, that the internet network of market research in Germany not yet developed and divided into two parts.
First of all there are traditional market research players (left side) that exist on the internet mainly isolated and “for themselves”.
And then there's the networked side of the industry (right side). Here you find blogs and social network presences of agencies or individuals who produce (also) market research related content (including my German blogs Olympiamilano and FOYER for dedicated market research).
The degree of linkage between the two sides is rather weak and limited to a few connection points. Although the market research industry as a whole picks up momentum in the social media world social media agencies and specialized player are very active and much stronger located in social media than "classic market research".
In addition, you can see that the German market research blogosphere is relatively small and personal. While in other communities the content is mainly delivered by bloggers and they discourse on issues play a central role, the market research blogging scene is very “manageable”. You probably won’t find open discussion on market research topics currently in the market research web. It therefore can be considered rather a Web 1.0 experience than Web 2.0. The German market research web is not dominated by user generated content or active exchange, but mostly by news, press releases or articles.
One could assume that the German market researchers have moved to a presence in social networks like Twitter and Facebook. But this is not the case. Here, too, German market researchers are very cautious and reserved. There are only a few active presences and little more intense exchange. #mr-Buzz is limited to a few activists. Public discourse or even public controversies are rare.
Explanations are easily found:
1. Traditional understanding of "secret": news from the fields of techniques, methods, products or results are – from the inside perspective – highly confidential information that cannot be made available to the public under any circumstances
2. As long as the fear of lifting industrial secrets is that large, the exchanged and visible information thus is superficial and unsatisfactory. Exchange doesn’t exist.
3. Open and honest opinions and provocative theses are only very seldom to be found in the German MR-network. One of the main reasons for this is the perceived fear of negative consequences caused by the employer. The dominant opinion that it is not appropriate as an employee of a reputable company or a reputable agency to set up a provocative thesis on the future of market research or even comment this. Finally, you have to stand behind your corporate philosophy
4. Another explanation for the fact that almost nobody actively participates in knowledge sharing across the web 2.0 lies in the fact that they don’t receive any instruction from the management level for this. There is rather the attitude "I can take without giving".
So no wonder that awareness and interest from outside the industry for the subject of market research is sometimes low. This is quite a shame as that here is an opportunity missed to directly interact with clients and customers and to design the role of market research more active.
Social media, networking and market research be on the agenda in Orlando, Florida at The Market Research Event 2011 , hosted by IIRUSA. Looking forward to having interesting chats about this.
About the author: Christian Dössel is blogging about market research in German language here and here. After having worked for TNS, TBWA\ and other strategy and market research agencies he now holds the position of Senior Research Director at MM-Eye in Hamburg / Germany with special responsibilities for MM-Eye's new media and online research approaches