Social media’s value in consumer insights

More and more companies are adding people with titles like “Manager of consumer insights” or “customer insights specialist”.  However too many of these positions are nothing more than a renaming of market research people and departments that still rely on old market research methodology to gain insights from consumers who, by the time the insights are analyzed and acted on, have moved on to competitors products.  Consumer  insights people have to be able to two things very well identify key insights but more importantly ensure the organization acts on those insights with speed and quality without weeks and months of meetings and Power Points.

Social Networks and Blog sites rule Americans’ Internet time, accounting for 23% of time spent online, more than twice the amount of time spent on the #2 category, Online Games. To further put this into context, time spent on the 75 “Other” online categories combined, only accounts for 35% of Americans’ total Internet time.

Paralled by a concurrent report, Joan Lewis, P&G’s Global Consumer and Market Knowledge Officer, noted that “… marketing leaders have been increasingly vocal in articulating a compelling vision for social media’s role in marketing research…  to cast the social media net wide beyond simple brand monitoring to derive deep, unexpected consumer insights about unmet needs and alternate uses for products… “

Ms. Lewis suggests six reasons why there is so much excitement about applying social media to marketing research:

  • The infinite panel: social media provides a lens into the beliefs, needs, desires and behaviors of tens of millions of people across all consumer segments. Unlike panels or forums, there is no limitation on size.
  • The infinite survey: social media is making it possible for marketers to know just about everything on the minds of their consumer segments. There is no limitation of knowledge imposed by a fixed number of pre-determined survey questions.
  • Real-time: markets can identify, understand, track and act on emerging consumer trends in real-time, in contrast with the lengthy cycle of creating and conducting traditional market research surveys.
  • Revealing “hidden” insights: social media enables marketers to more easily uncover hidden preferences, unmet needs and unintended use-cases, enabling marketers to focus on product enhancements. Unintended use-cases can be a marketing goldmine.
  • In their words: customer satisfaction and product quality can be articulated and measured through social media research in the language of the customer. For example, a car company might define and measure quality from an engineering standpoint, while consumers might speak of quality across social media in terms of fit and finish, interior materials, comfortable seats or a quiet cabin… better competitive differentiation.
  • More for Less: Learning about consumers through traditional marketing research is expensive. It is possible to derive deep, meaningful, real-time insights across numerous consumer segments and topics far more cost-effectively through social media research.
Does this all mean that you should act on some Tweets or posts on facebook pages?  Of course not.  Consumer insights people have to be able to quantify information from social media and determine which information is credible or a threat to the brand and which ones are are just either consumers blowing off steam or social media trolls.

While I still recommend that companies use qualitative research to get into consumers heads about new brand initiatives like designing a great brand experience online social media is becoming more and more a great way to listen to consumers/customers and act on what you learn but only if your organization can act to changes in the marketplace.  For this reason alone more companies need to be more customer centric.

About richmeyer

Rich is a passionate marketer who is able to quickly understand what turns a prospect into a customer. He challenges the status quo and always asks "what can we do better"? He knows how to take analytics and turn them into opportunities and he is a great communicator.

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5 Comments on “Social media’s value in consumer insights”

  1. Wow! Impressive content & such an interesting read! I especially enjoyed the “6 reasons…” and couldn’t agree more with the points made. Social media definitely allows companies better flexibility to act/react quickly & have better insight into customers’ needs, desires & wishes. Managed properly & intelligently, social media will continue to prove it is an invaluable player in the ultimate game…business success. Thanks for sharing such great info, Rich!

    1. Thank you Lynn. What I have been trying to say all along is that there is a place for social media in marketing but marketers cannot assume that social media is going to be the answer for really bad marketing. Thank you for being a reader

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