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
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.
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.
- Use the
data as part of a pre-search phase, getting up to speed on a topic.
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.
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.
the client’s internal department is sharing social media data with the
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
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:
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