The Evolution of Market Research and the importance of Social Media Listening
by Pete Knoblock
Wouldn’t it be nice to know how your customers really feel about the product / service you are providing them? Do you wonder if they are recommending you to other people or are they bashing you on Twitter to thousands? How many complaints have gone unanswered? Why didn’t your Radio commercial bring in new business, and how come your competitor’s Facebook (call-to-action) post brought in 50 new customers last week? And why didn’t anyone tell you that a waiter was unfriendly, your facilities were dirty, nobody responded to a customer’s complaint, etc., etc.
Not knowing the answers to these questions can expedite the trip to Chapter 7 or 13. Many business owners think they know how to market their business, but they are fooling themselves. If every business owner knew how to market their business, there would be no tangible phone books, no direct mail and certainly a lot less of the street corner sign flippers. Areas of focus in 2016 and beyond should be knowing what consumers are saying about your brand in real-time.
Could you imagine if your customers were saying this about your product or service on Facebook and your organization didn’t know about it?
But first, a chronology…
Old School Social Media Listening
Traditional methods of Listening is not in the present and is almost too late once the brand receives the information. Traditional methods included mailing out a survey in the actual mail (this could take months depending on how long it took to get a valid sample)! Then hoping to get a 5-10% response rate and a valid sample (Usually with 5% + / – margin of error). Several steps had to take place before finally getting the data ready for a deliverable. Such steps included, hand coding the surveys once the data was received, running a statistical analysis, handing off reams of data to the analyst, cross-tabulating, putting those numbers into workable English and ultimately presenting the data in a way which makes sense to mid-management or C-Suite individuals.
We then graduated into telephone surveys using call centers and IVR (interactive voice response) systems based on POS (point of service) information (let’s not forget how long that took to implement and become active). Survey fields could also take months to receive the necessary amount of data to conduct statistically valid analysis. Operations were similar to tangible surveys. The key point again was the amount of time it took from consumer input to brand action.
Al Gore – The Internet
Online surveys were the next wave of market research technological advances. Again, the wait time to get enough information was not real time. Sure, there’s always going to be the 800 number, contact us forms via the brand’s contact us webpage, long-form writing, etc.; but again, it’s just not quick enough to act upon.
BUT, if a brand really wants to be current with its former, existing and potential customers, it needs to be socially aware of what is being said about them in real-time. Speed to action is vital to extend a consumer’s loyalty, impress, excite and any other variation which leads to a moneyed transaction, likelihood to recommend and likelihood to return.
So what is Social Media Listening?
Twenty years ago, this industry didn’t exist. Now, it’s an absolute requisite for a company to succeed in market-share expansion, crisis monitoring, customer service, sales, strategy, public relations, marketing and beyond.
Social Media Listening simply defined is the following:
“Listening is observing, interpreting and acting upon active conversation in real time. Any time a former, existing or potential consumer mentions your brand’s name on publicly available social media channels; there’s always someone observing, interpreting and acting upon that person’s quote.”
Dynamic Social Media
Social Media is about as dynamic as it gets. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. continue to change their algorithms to increase usage which in turn provides more money into these Tech Giants. All the while, Social Media firms continue to scramble to comprehend the dynamics so they too, can increase their client-base; which in turn, that client base can go advertise on those giant social sites. It’s all cyclical, but the orbit is never the same.
Another item to consider when reading this, and it’s the same for any vertical; consumer sentiment can change within seconds. A brand’s image can be positively engaged in one minute and in the next minute, its stock price has plummeted by 5% or more. And there are plenty of examples out there which reflect this:
Ø Angry / Offensive tweet from C-Suite or Celebrity
Ø Product recall
Ø Health Concerns
Ø Sensitive information
Ø Political Views
These are just a few areas where organizations need to be at the ready in case a forced or unforced error comes across the Public Relations’ Monitor.
Sentiment is happening in real-time and organizations need to have the ability to understand where it’s coming from, how it happened, why it happened and what to do next. Not to mention, consumers demand a response in 30 seconds or less.
Gen X, Millennials, Boomers…
The lovers of Direct Mail are wasting their money. When you live in an apartment complex at the age of 25, do you want to get an ad about a Garage Door company? How about a Plumber? Air Conditioning? Yet, on an individual’s Facebook Page there’s targeted advertising based on that individual’s demographic and a few other ‘clandestine’ (yet legal) metrics.
If there’s a topic on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. which falls into your industry, wouldn’t you want to know who’s talking about it, how old, is it Global, is it National, what gender?
Welcome to the Jungle of social listening
It’s the 21st Century folks. If you are relying upon 20th Century tactics, you’re missing the train. Social Listening is becoming more and more dynamic in terms of data availability. We’re unearthing metrics which are not available to just any organization. It’s paramount for an organization to take its temperature, implement a recourse if need-be and track the success of that campaign all within 60 seconds. If you don’t, your competitors will, and they will GLADLY take your customers with them.