There are now over 901 million members of Facebook (covering
around 13% of the World’s population), of which 526 million are active daily
users. The number of people using Twitter has also witnessed a significant
increase in recent years, a total of around 250 million tweets are posted every
day by the 300 million users of the site.
With social media usage constantly growing and extending to a
wider range of people, it is now of great interest to market researchers to capitalise
on this large pool of customers using social media to express attitudes towards
brands (53% of active adult social networkers follow a brand).
The demand for consumer research through social media sites has
been clearly recognised by Twitter who have recently started selling data to
research companies, with reportedly more than 1,000 companies joining a waiting
list to use this data.
"We want to collect the voice of the customer through all means necessary, including social media"
(Mike Moran, 2011)
What are the Pros
such a large amount of information posted on social media sites (250 million
tweets per day), it is highly likely that someone will be talking about your
media offers a large accessible sample (larger sample = greater objectivity).
wide range of people are now using social media. Many studies have shown that
older generations are experiencing the highest rates of growth uptake with
social media (wider sample = greater representativeness).
media presents fresh and organic feedback, great for early exploration into a
consumer market of interest.
talk freely about their interests without the constraints of specifically
answering an interviewer’s question.
researcher can filter for information they are specifically interested in. This
can be more time effective than traditional observational research, where a
researcher would have to wait for the specific information they are after.
consumer’s attitudes/opinions without their explicit consent does not align
well with the ethical standards we strive for in market research
feedback provided may not be very well considered because of the environment it
is delivered in.
the anonymous nature of these environments may encourage extremes of opinion
i.e. said for fun, to spark a reaction among other members, that have little
relevance to the author’s true feeling in the real world.
researchers require different types of information about a customer (i.e. age,
gender, nationality) to assess whether significant differences exist between
different sectors of customers. This information is difficult to uncover
accurately through social media sites like Twitter.
inability to find specific information about the customers you are studying can
throw into question the representativeness of the data (i.e. are all areas of
the company’s customer base taken into account when drawing conclusions?)
- Being only
observers of the dialogue, it is difficult to ask further questions or to probe
deeper if we weren’t in the conversation to begin with.
Media Research with Online Research Communities
Social media can complement consumer research at every stage in a
project’s design. Taking the pros and cons into account, it’s best used as part
of a mixed research approach and is at its best when combined with other online
research techniques, especially online research communities.
In this way, the trends picked up in social media can then be explored
further inside the research community. The community is used to dig deeper into
the motivations, influences and context behind what is observed in social
media. At Intersperience, our research communities can also be informed by
customer panel databases, adding much more depth and background to the
consumer’s behaviour. Customer segments can be separated, response to stimulus
explored and specific issues debated.
M. (2011) Will
social media listening replace market research? Available at:
http://www.biznology.com/2011/04/will_social_media_listening_re/ [Accessed: May