But nobody told you what. Social media is still a brand new arena for many companies. Some are just figuring out that having a Facebook account and maybe even a Twitter account is a good thing. And if these tools are new to you, trying to get a grasp on what more there is to do with social media can be an overwhelming task. Have no fear though. Here are four different things you can do.
1) Public Relations: Social media is a great tool for communicating with the general public. Your Facebook page and your Twitter account let you have one to one conversations with people about your brand and products. Consumers – people – have fun reading postings, liking posts, and getting to learn more about who you are as a brand. And, anyone can quickly and easily jump on this wagon. This is the most popular use for social media.
2) Customer Relationship Management: Companies that are a little more savvy can build on their PR initiatives with this component. Tools like Facebook and Twitter can be used not just for general communications, but to respond to consumer questions and solve consumer problems. It’s easy enough for people to send a Facebook message or Tweet to you asking specific questions. If you’re ready to respond to them, with speed and friendliness, then this could be right for you. Companies like Dell and Comcast have Twitter accounts set up just for this and people take full advantage of them.
3) Social Media Monitoring: This use of social media takes a step away from the individual consumer to look at the wider space of the internet. Monitoring is a way for a brand to stay on top of who is saying what about your brand. The goal isn’t necessarily to communicate with individual people, but rather to have an ear open to anyone speaking about your brand, to watch when and why the volume of conversations increases and decreases, to see what reactions are when good or bad things happen around your brand.
4) Social Media Research: For those of you wishing to expand your survey or focus group research beyond the asking and into the listening, this is the option for you. Social media research uses all of the same scientific principles as traditional research but focuses on social media as the data source rather surveys or focus groups as the source of data. Research objectives, sampling, weighting, standardized variables, norms, generalizability, and validity are the words of the day here.
In the end, you must decide on your objective. Do you want a communication channel for your consumers? Do you want to actively seek questions and solve problems? Do you want to listen to the ebb and flow of the internet? Do you have specific research problems you need to solve? You may not have the time or the budget to delve into every area but one of them probably meets a need you’re currently trying to fill.
Answer that question, and the next step is easy. Well, maybe not easy, but at least you’ve chosen a fork in the road.
I’ve had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks with people who are interested in social media research. We had some long talks before I started to realize — we were not talking about the same thing! Perhaps this is why there is so much confusion out there. Here are some of things people meant when they talked social media research.
Social media research is the process of researching social media. For instance, someone who spends hours on google finding blogs and articles about Twitter or Facebook is researching social media. This one is the easiest one to tease out but from here on, it gets more difficult.
Social media research is the process of recruiting research participants via social media. In this case, someone who goes into Facebook, perhaps they even create a Facebook page, to ask people whether they would like to answer a survey or participate in a focus group is conducting research via social media.
Social media research is an online focus group. Perhaps you have created a specialized social network that is only about a specific topic for the purposes of listening or asking questions of the group members. At the end of the project, the group may close or may move onto a brand new topic with a brand new set of group members.
Social media research is online participant observational research. This could include joining an existing social network to quietly observe how group members interact with each other and possibly participate as a member. By listening and asking questions, the researcher hopes to solve a problem or learn what people think about a specific topic.
Social media research is large scale, quantitative, analyses of naturally occurring conversations on the internet. This would involve collecting massive quantities of data from across the entire internet to listen, score, code, analyze, generalize and predict human behavior. Of course, this is the one that I always think of, but it is definitely not what everyone thinks of.
Next time you find yourself talking about social media research, stop for a second and ask. Are you talking about the same thing?
Almost anywhere you turn, someone is offering social media tracking, monitoring, measurement, evaluation, or some other form of analysis of social media data. How do you know whether you’re getting quality goods? Here are six things to checkmark before you get started on the journey.
Search Quality: What are the restrictions put around the data you are seeking? Are there methods in place to ensure the right data is being selected in and the wrong data selected out? If your brand is “Target, ” you need to make sure that the data is all about clothing and consumer goods (select in) and not about target practice (select out). Ask whether the data collection processes allow complex “and” and “or” searches so that data can be easily excluded and deliberately included.
Search Population: Is data being gathered from across the entire internet or just the top sites? There are pros and cons to each method. The top sites often account for up to 80% of all of the relevant data, but who’s to say whether the other 20% reflects a unique group of consumers whose voice could change how you think about your brand. You should at least know which process is being used.
Data Volume: Being blessed with millions of online records is a sweet luxury that only a few brands can achieve. But, unlike the survey world where 500 is a great sample size, this just doesn’t cut it in social media research. Most brands fall somewhere in between these two extremes, generating from hundreds to thousands of records each month. If your brand generates just a few hundred records every month, you might be more suited to a qualitative approach to SMR and some efforts towards building a greater online presence. Brands generating thousands of records each month can take full advantage of both quant and qual approaches.
Scoring Quality: There are many different methods for scoring the sentiment of online conversations. What systems are being used? Is the scoring a manual process, automated, or combination of the two? Is it dictionary based or mathematical based? How do the systems accommodate the rapidly evolving English language? How do the systems account for new and emerging slang? And all the while, you need to remember that no system, not even a human being, can achieve perfect scoring. In this world, perfect isn’t 100%, it’s only 85%.
Coding Quality: Data isn’t useful until it’s categorized into meaningful chunks of data. Knowing that overall sentiment towards a brand is “Very Positive” does nothing to help you decide whether you need to build your product in a different color, shape, or size. But this isn’t an easy process. When Earl Grey Tea gets categorized into a color, you have no hope of generating valid insights from your results. Ask about the process of data quality in the coding process. Find out whether Charlie Brown is a color.
Coding Flexibility: Your brand is unique like no other brand. Your research objectives are like no other brand. There’s no reason to assume that the coding structure any other brand uses should be the same as what you use. Beyond the obvious requirements of purchasing, recommendations, trial etc., you have specific needs. Be sure to ask about how the coding can be customized to meet your unique requirements.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you missed both of these hugely popular brand campaigns. Old Spice was fighting perceptions that it’s a brand your great-great-great-grandfather uses and Axe is trying be the number 1 brand with the most highly desired young male audience. If you haven’t watched these ads yet, you really should now.
[Slight caution - the Axe video may offend sensitive viewers. And now you REALLY want to watch it!]
Now that you are fully prepared, isn’t it time for…. Battle of the Brands! This is just for you, Avi. Ask and you shall receive!
Using only the thousands of social media opinions generated by their fans as their weapons, we have analyzed, samplized, sentimentalyzed, and contentalyzed opinions about Old Spice and Axe from just the last few weeks. Whomever wins the most matches will be declared the victor. Let us begin.
. Purchasing: You know you’re going to buy one of these products, but which one? We’ve got a virtual tie here with Old Spice generating 47% positive opinions towards purchasing behaviour and Axe generating a 49% positive opinion towards purchasing. No dice on this battle. Let’s try again.
New and different: Of course you want something new and different. Which brand brings that image to mind the best?Old spice pulls ahead on this measure with 48% positive compared to Axe’s 39% positive. That’s a good ten percent lead.
Pricing: Of course, being new and different isn’t going to do it all. We need some good pricing as well. In this battle, Old Spice takes the lead again. They’ve got 52% positive compared to Axe’s 37% positive. Yikes! a 15% lead!
Ads: Uh oh, Axe had better watch out! They’re doing well with 32% positive, but the manly man that is Mustaffa is just pushing Old Spice further and further ahead with 46% positive.
Scent: OK, Axe, now you just aren’t even trying. The product is all about scent but with 24% of opinions falling into the positive zone, you’re really lagging behind Old Spice which is 39% positive.
Funny: Why am I beating a dead horse? Axe is just not keeping pace. 30% positive means the campaigns are generally funny but not nearly as funny as Old Spice which is 46% positive. This is another huge 16% lead!
Mysterious: Someone… please… stop…. me… now. Axe managed a 14% positive score while Old Spice just slammed the ball into the basket/net/goal/insert sports reference of choice with a 56% positive score.
I think I don’t even want to summarize these results.
You have to admit it. You’re either in the iPhone camp or the Blackberry camp. There is no middle. Which means we’ve got a perfect pairing for…. Battle of the Brands!
Using only the thousands of social media opinions generated by their fans as their weapons, we have analyzed, samplized, sentimentalyzed, and contentalyzed the Blackberry and the iPhone. Whomever wins the most matches will be declared the victor. Let us begin.
Advertising: Apple definitely wins this battle. 40% of opinions approve of Apple advertisements compared to just 20% of opinions showing approval of Blackberry advertisements. That’s why everyone is trying to copy Apple with their funky cool tunes on TV.
Crowding: You can’t buy either device unless you venture into the store. Unfortunately, even though the stores are set up with the consumer in mind, Apples loses this battle with only 11% approval compared to the Blackberry’s 16% approval. Those Apple stores are tons of fun but they are really crowded!
Batteries: Apple wins this battle with 33% positive opinions compared to Blackberry’s 26% positive opinions. What good is a pretty phone if it keeps running out of battery power.
Keyboard: You simply can’t type an email or text a message any faster than with a Blackberry keyboard. That’s why Blackberry takes this one with 42% approval compared to Apple’s 33% approval. But, 33% is pretty great for second place.
. Applications: This one seems to be a no-brainer. Apple gets a 45% approval rating while Blackberry gets a 35% approval rating. There’s an app for that except when it comes to cooking dinner and putting it on my plate.
Websurfing: Another no brainer! Apple wins with 31% approval, while the Blackberry falters with the just 17% approval.
Packaging: Mr Steve iPhone is well known for thinking outside of the box when it comes to creating the box and this one was no different. Chatter about iPhone packaging was 39% positive compared to 31% positive for the Blackberry. As you can see in the video, people just love sharing the unboxing moment with everyone, even you.
A quick look at the battles shows a clear winner. Apple won hands down when it came to advertising, batteries, applications, websurfing, and packaging. On the other hand, the Blackberry won with its keyboard and uncrowded stores. I don’t know about you, but the iPhone magnet just got a little stronger for me.
Next Battle of the Brands? Completely up to you. Leave your requests in the comment box!
We can’t help but join in on the joke. Much to our amusement, fast breaking news revealed that one of the top restaurant chains was going to launch a new sandwich, not containing fried chicken but rather fried skin of chicken. Are you curious about the reaction to this new food created by a nation already known for poor eating habits?
We gathered a sample of opinions talking about the Skinwich from across the internet. Blogs, microblogs, forums, news, we reviewed them all. And now, the results are in.
Give it a try! 33% of opinions were in favor of trying this new delicacy while 20% were definitely not in favor. Another 47% were as yet undecided. I think I’m going to put myself in the Definitely Not category.
Tasty treat or gross grub? 5% of opinions were positive towards the potential taste while only 9% of the opinions were negative. I’m personally going to stick with the negative.
Healthy or hearty? Yikes! 5% of opinions were positive about the potential health benefits while 18% thought this concoction would be unhealthy. Maybe it’s the dairy in the cheese that people thought was healthy?
Well, this is one case where I don’t need numbers to tell me what the average person thinks of this fake food. A word cloud does the trick perfectly.
What a lovely city Barrie is! From the beautiful lakes, wandering fields, and deathly blades ready to skewer you (check out the Spirit Catcher by Ron Baird, you’ll see), it was a delight to make the trip. I was invited by Neil to speak to his Georgian College research class about social media research from all points theoretical to practical. A two hour class is far too short a time span to talk about everything there is to say but boy did we try!
We managed to cover all of the hot topics. No, geographic data isn’t readily available for social media data. No, demographic data is readily available. No, sentiment analysis isn’t perfect. No, content analysis isn’t perfect. But then if you think about social desirability, leading questions, horribly long grids, nonrandom samples, and self-selection biases, there are lots of drawbacks to other forms of market research too. It all comes down to choosing the right method for your purpose, understanding the pros and cons of the method you’ve chosen and using that method wisely.
As such, we also managed to cover lots of the good stuff too. Even if you don’t have a social media presence, you can do social media research using competitor data and category data. You can gather thousands and millions of opinions from people who might have never answered a survey before. You can measure thousands of variables that would never have fit on a survey or as part of a focus group. You can discover strange new uses for your product. You can see the real language people use to talk about your product, not the cleaned up for church, no swear words version. You can measure variables backwards in time even if you just created the variable today.
We also learned that if you participate in class, you might be invited to join an offline social network, Silly Bandz, even if you aren’t on Twitter. I have only 9 left…
I hope you all did well on your 3 hour exam, even if your computer did freeze at the very end of it. (My deepest sympathies to you!)
Thanks for inviting me, thanks for the delicious homemade cookies, and thanks for the apple!
I wish the best of luck to each one of you in your job searches. May they be short and fruitful.
Members of the Marketing Research Association (MRA) can peruse the August issue of Alert! and learn more about social media research as practiced by Conversition. Annie Pettit’s article leads this month’s issue with some things you should consider when embarking on a social media research project. If we may be so bold, some have called it a “Must Read.”
On the cover is pictured Noam Raz, @raznoam on Twitter, who traveled all the way from Israel to attend the Boston MRA conference.
Conversition is delighted to have Krista Joyce join our Sales and Marketing team. She comes to us with a wealth of experience at several well-known market research companies. As you can see from her photo, she’s going to be a fun member of our family!
You can follow Krista on Twitter where she talks research with the rest of the research tweeple, or through her Conversition email address, Krista at Conversition dot com.
Welcome aboard Krista! Your cookie duty is every Thursday.
Tomorrow, I’ll be going back to school. I’ll be meeting up with a few twitter friends, including Neil, Justin, Caroline, and Shane, all students and staff of the Georgian College research analyst program, for a good ol’ chat about social media research. For just one day, I’ll be Professor Pettit trying to share some new or interesting tidbits with the class. Students, bring your apples!
Neil and Justin have been busy, with their fellow students Mohamed and Matt, and have created this presentation about social media research. As you can see, we’ve got some new bright researchers about to join the industry! (And I’m sure they’ll be looking for jobs very soon…)
Have you done your market research good deed for the day? If not, find out if there are any colleges near you that would appreciate having you as a guest speaker. Bring some of the excitement that you have for your work and inspire others to become researchers!