Brands depend on traditional market research techniques and results to develop competitive advantage and better customer experiences. However, balancing proper techniques that lead to valuable insight with the speed of business limits the overall efficacy of these studies. Core challenges include lengthy timelines that can render research obsolete, expensive focus groups that tell researchers more of what they already know, not to mention unmanageable complexity when requirements are global. Rather than serving as a replacement, social intelligence can augment traditional market research to yield better results while overcoming obstacles to actionable insight.
Market researchers on both the client and vendor sides are well aware of the gaps and limitations presented by traditional market research methodologies. There are a number of white papers surrounding bias, inaccurate recall, moderator influence, lack of questionnaire depth, professional respondents, the high costs of doing multi-country studies, etc. Although we acknowledge these obstacles exist, it is not clear how to overcome them. But what if we could fill the gaps that traditional market research presents with social intelligence (Facebook, Twitter, forums, blogs, etc.) to create a comprehensive research strategy? By combining these two imperfect methodologies and data sets, we can overcome the obstacles of both.
Integrating social intelligence
Market researchers utilize new methodologies and data sets to fill the inherent gaps of existing approaches and provide comprehensive insights for clients. Constantly seeking ways to create better, more cost-effective insights has driven the evolution of the industry since its inception.
As the next iteration in this process, social data enables us to uncover true motivations and behaviors in a unique way. To truly understand a tiger, you must observe him in the jungle – not the zoo:
The sweet spot for traditional
On the other hand, traditional market research methodologies can address the social data set’s shortcomings, such as a lack of available demographic data:
Integrating the social data set into the research process
Although social data is a powerful and low-cost data source, it remains a challenge to discern the right place and time to integrate it into the research process. In actuality, it varies based on client needs, budget, and existing knowledge. Below, four of the most common use cases of social intelligence are highlighted:
- Explore: Start with a broad, qualitative social intelligence deep dive. This can help to figure out the right questions to ask in focus groups, surveys, etc.
- Uncover: You can easily discern behavior through surveys and web analytics, but social can uncover the “why” behind those behaviors.
- Validate: After spending a lot of budget on traditional research, social can help to validate those findings in a cost-effective way. You can even measure the prevalence of topics in order to better prioritize actions.
- Track: By tracking themes constantly, you can keep a continuous pulse on a topic so you won’t miss any opportunities between longitudinal studies.
As market researchers, we owe it to our clients and discipline to provide the most complete and comprehensive insights available, while maintaining budget and meeting deadlines. Leveraging multiple methodologies in our research helps us to fulfill this responsibility – we can demonstrate the power of social intelligence to compliment and supplement traditional research methodologies, ultimately moving the field forward.