To gather market intelligence, traditionally it is necessary to undertake expensive, and slow, studies. Even a desktop study that does not actually interview anyone can be expensive and you can sometimes still be waiting weeks for the results.
Unfortunately traditional marketing campaigns have even more drawbacks. For example, often it is only once the interview stage is complete that true market intelligence begins to appear – and you are often left frustrated at the incompleteness of the answers – why didn’t we ask them more questions about that?
Can social media replace the traditional routes to understanding a market?
You may think it is impossible. I mean how can social media data replace a targeted question? How can it replace interviews that are designed for a particular demographic? How is it even possible to filter through the mountains of dross that are posted through social media – in what way would someone’s drinking habits (and subsequent hangover) be useful in undertaking competitor analysis?
All of the above points are valid. However, if you can identify social media comments that are in fact about your brand or product, then it is an enormously rich source of information. The demographic for a particular social media channel can be identified (albeit not to the same degree of accuracy as would be done offline), which solves that particular issue.
In terms of defining the questions to ask, the analysis of this data requires the marketeer to flip his/her thinking.
What do I mean by this? Well, normally the questions that you would like answered are predefined. A great deal of thought has to go into what the questions are, and to ensure that they do not promote bias one way or another. Respondents are either phoned, emailed, or interviewed face to face. The analysis then looks at the responses that are usually in the form of “Rate our product from 1-10 with 1 being terrible and 10 being fantastic”.
However with social media, your customers (or potential customers) are giving their opinions on the things that are important to them for free. This has a number of benefits, but not least is the fact that they are more likely to be honest! This means that the answers to questions are already there – you simply need to determine what questions to ask.
That sounds like an impossible task – how can you possibly know what questions to ask without knowing what the answers are?
The use of contextual analysis solves this particular issue. Contextual analysis has one particular benefit, in that it would automatically ignore any comments not relevant to the topic in hand (i.e. ignores the dross). Since the social media data is analysed in context you can ask a series of simple questions to drill down into the data and find out the issues that people find important.
For example, the first question could be “What issues are important for the customer in relation to market X?”. This question is posed by simply asking for words in context with a word that describes the marketplace for your product – e.g. “financial”, “ice-cream” or “printer”.
The analysis would then show the words that are identified in context. To understand the data still further, you could then analyse one of these words in context with the first. This allows you to drill into the data and find more information relating to these words. In each case, when asking for the analysis of words in context, you are asking “What issues are important for the customer in relation to X?“.
This type of approach gives you a number of advantages, not least that it will be quicker, and less expensive, than traditional routes. In addition, the marketeer can focus and concentrate on the important issue of better understanding the brand or product, and how it is perceived in the marketplace.
In summary, this blog post shows how the use of social media is an effective way to gather market intelligence. In some cases it can be used to replace traditional methods, or at least, complement them so that the final interview stage can be better prepared, improving the overall ROI.
For an example of this process and an extended whitepaper exploring how this approach has been used, please go here.
For further whitepapers and more examples of what contextual analysis can do for you, please refer to the whitepapers section of our website.