By: Terry Lawlor, EVP Product Management, Confirmit
The role of social media in delivering business insights is a tricky business. While most researchers consider it to offer real benefits, the big question is “how do we do it properly?” In our recent survey of Market Research professionals, we asked respondents about their feelings towards social media. Overwhelmingly, the most popular response from the five choices offered was “A useful addition to a Market Research project if we can bring the data together effectively”.
The word to look at there is “if”.
For many businesses, that “if” is surmountable, and for others it isn’t – at least not yet. There are a number of things to bear in mind.
Who is Your Audience?
The changing dynamic of the consumer has a significant impact on research. Millennials behave differently when it comes to researching, buying and complaining about products. The audience you’re targeting has a huge role to play when it comes to establishing the part that social media has to play in your business.
It Takes More Than Technology
There’s no silver bullet for social media. It takes a combination of people, process and technology to be successful. You need technology to sift through the vast quantities of information – to find and filter data sources, provide intelligent sampling of massive amounts of content, and perform categorization and sentiment analysis. However, you will still need people. In our recent study, Political Buzz, we used social media (as well as traditional surveys) to monitor topics for the UK election. One of our key findings was that the role of people was critical in researching the key social and online media channels, and in building the taxonomies on which your technology must function.
It’s More Than Just Social
When thinking about social media, most people immediately think of Twitter and Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr, perhaps YouTube and Pinterest. There are actually many more social media sites than you think, and there are many different feeds within each social media platform. And there is a huge array of online media, where people post comments and stories, and review sites that cover many different categories of products and services. So you need to think about online media as much as social media, and you need to think about data sources that amount to tens or hundreds of thousands of different media channels.
A Double-Edged Sword
As with every “next big thing”, social media research is a double-edged sword. On one hand, because it is largely unsolicited, you can uncover insights that you never anticipated. However, also because it is largely unsolicited, it might not address anything useful for your research program. You may want to research a particular topic but no one is discussing it, or your target audience just doesn’t use social media.
About the Author: Terry Lawlor has the responsibility of all aspects of product management, including strategy development, product definition, and product representation in client and marketing activities. Terry is a seasoned and highly professional enterprise software executive who possesses a wealth of expertise in the Market Research and customer experience markets.