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Leveraging Social Media Intelligence with the Qualitative Research Community

Posted By Kayte Hamilton, Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Leveraging Social Media Intelligence with the Qualitative Research Community

This is a follow-up to the QRCA Flash Webinar designed as an introduction to social media research (what it is and how to get started). (Presented with my industry colleague Frank Gregory from NorthStar Solutions Group.)

It probably doesn’t come as a shock to anyone reading this that the coronavirus pandemic is now the most talked about topic in the history of social media. A perfect storm for social media conversation volume growth has emerged: Consumers across the globe are stuck at home (initially under strict government orders, now in the interest of community safety), wanting to express how they feel about the situation, how their views of everyday topics have changed because of the situation, or simply to virtually connect with others and laugh to take their mind off the situation. The obvious way to do this is from the comfort of their couch—by posting on social media. 

As consumers’ behavior has been forced to change, the landscape for researchers has changed as well, with some in-person methodologies being impossible to execute for the near future. Therefore, researchers should consider a pivot to new execution strategies, including social media intelligence, as a new tool in your toolkit…myself included!

Years ago I attempted to dabble in social media listening. Pain points included having to learn new skills like query writing, on top of navigating multiple social listening platforms which were all different and all limiting. Functionally, this resource hadn’t been ripened for basic qualitative interpretation. So I admit, I checked out. I figured, “if a client wanted social listening they either (1) are doing it internally or (2) would have asked.” I couldn’t have been more wrong, and Frank quickly schooled me on the renewed power of social mining.

Definition Clarification:

Social media listening is an older view on this research tool. At the time, listening made sense; for the most part, we were simply observing the incoming data and trying to make our own interpretations and connections. Most of the time this told you a percentage of conversation share the brand has and some light ideas revolving sentiment analysis (is there a positive, negative, or neutral perception?).

Social intelligence, the more modern way to describe this sector, is much more advanced. It can capture consumer conversations across any digital entity (from actual social media to product reviews) and add demographic and psychographic layers allowing you to “segment” the digital population (lightly compared to formal screening, of course). Today’s tool landscape helps us analyze in ways past platforms dreamed of, such as audience affinity, influencer evaluation, or platform performance benchmarking. In short, it’s adding more context to the conversations.

Regardless of the type of social media analytics tool, to me the biggest appeal to jumping into social media intelligence more fully is the reminder that it’s really never too late to get started. Unlike other “in-the-moment” approaches qualitative researches might implement, we can go backward in time and analyze social media conversation in time chunks.

As opposed to trying to ask a consumer how they felt about X topic 2 years ago vs. 1 year ago vs. 6 months ago vs. today; social media intelligence allows you to find the millions of consumer comments discussing that topic over that time period. The posts consumers made 2 years ago are still there waiting to be analyzed. So, using the coronavirus pandemic as an example, kicking off a social media intelligence analysis today doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on the last few months of social conversation trends—including how the coronavirus has changed the way consumers think about certain brands, industries, and behaviors.

Every single company has been impacted by our current events. Consumer perceptions around the globe have been impacted in almost every way imaginable, often related to the brand or company you are supporting in your research project. There are many ways to tap into these conversations and use the information to your advantage, from proposals to report writing.

DO

DON’T

  • Use the data as part of a pre-search phase, getting up to speed on a topic.
  • Consider if this tool is something you want to execute or find a partner on. Similar to online boards, ask if you are an expert programmer or if you pay extra for the setup service.
  • Ask your clients how they currently engage with social media analytics. Can you help layer your qualitative expertise with this “big data”? Analysts approach the information much differently than a consumer insights professional.
  • Assume the client’s internal department is sharing social media data with the insights team.
  • Mistake social intelligence as only the “major” social media channels. Data collected includes public forums, news sites, blogs, product reviews, etc., in addition to the main social media sites (Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, parts of Facebook).
  • Block yourself; just because it’s not “screened” or “recruited” information, doesn’t mean it can’t add value to your insight generation process.

Like all new skills, integrating social intelligence into your process takes time. To me, it’s the same type of learning curve as:

  • Online boards/communities
  • Video reports
  • Automated interviews

I think people shy away from learning new skills because they are unsure of how to translate their current qualitative skillsets. Quallies are not just moderators; we bring more to the table than simply asking questions. Therefore, we should have a dynamic set of resources to help us interpret and uncover insight beyond interviewing

Let’s start a discussion. What’s holding you back from integrating social intelligence to your qualitative practice? 

About the author:

Kayte Hamilton specializes in research design at InsightsNow among a large variety of clients from pharma to CPG. As a hybrid researcher, she’s always looking for ways to mix methods. Currently she’s the chair for the QRCA Annual Qually Award, where she advocates for innovative research solutions and shares these findings with the greater QRCA community. 

Tags:  listening  online listening  QRCA Digest  qualitative research  Research Methodologies  social mediaCustomer Journey Maps 

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