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Social Listening And Online Communities: 1+1=3?

A true business insight is more likely to be the result of synthesizing data from multiple sources as opposed to analysing a (small) data-set to death. The insights expert is a necessary part of this equation (1+1=3).



By Michalis Michael

Two out of the top 3 trends in market research repeatedly reported by Greenbook’s GRIT report are social listening and online communities. The third is mobile research which, being a method of collecting data for surveys, can be part of online communities anyway.

We have written about private online communities and social media listening separately many times before, but this blog post is dedicated to the power of integrating the two disciplines.

Back in February, the CEO of Kantar Research Eric Salama spoke at the Insight Innovation Exchange conference in Amsterdam, about his view of the future of market research. One of the concepts that stuck with me was that in the future, market research will be divided in “learning applications” and “action applications”. My interpretation of these two types of apps is that the former is pure market research as we know it, and the latter are adjacent marketing activities that today are not governed by the ESOMAR or the MRS code of conduct. Examples of action applications are programmatic advertising, customer advocacy, and agile customer engagement.

Two of the following three ways to integrate social listening and online community platforms are action applications, and one is a learning application. Let’s see if you agree that 1+1 will equal more than 2 in these three cases:

  1. Member recruitment for online communities
    For the first time in the history of marketing and market research, we can now find respondents for ad-hoc research or members of communities based on their perceptions, without having to use a screener questionnaire. We can use social listening to gather all the posts from the web that: are aligned with an idea, agree with a concept or express love for a brand. Because the expressed opinions on social media posts are unsolicited, they are of better quality than those expressed in a screener questionnaire used with people from a consumer panel. The panelists have an interest to figure out how to answer “right” so that they will be invited to participate in a survey (expert respondents).
  2. Listen-probe-listen-probe
    A virtuous circle can be created by integrating listening and communities. A brand or organisation can first “listen” to what people say on the web about the subjects of interest, and then engage with the members of their private online communities to ask questions (probe) about what they learnt from the harvesting and analysis of online posts. Through the probing they are bound to discover information that will improve the way they do their social media monitoring. And so on and so forth… Every time they complete a listen-probe-listen cycle, new valuable insights can be extracted that were never attainable before.
  3. Amplified customer advocacy
    Product category influencers can be identified through the content of their online posts and the size of their networks. They can then be invited to join an exclusive private online community for co-creation of digital content and customer advocacy amplification i.e. the sharing of the digital content with their friends and network.

Connecting the dots is a very powerful notion in market research. As shared on this blog several times, we firmly believe that a true business insight is more likely to be the result of synthesizing data from multiple sources as opposed to analysing a (small) data-set to death. The insights expert is a necessary part of this equation (1+1=3). There is also a new breed of a human skill-set that is becoming more and more an integral part of those market research agencies that “get it”; it is the data scientist who is among other things a machine learning specialist not daunted by tera-, peta-, hexa or zeta-bytes.


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3 responses to “Social Listening And Online Communities: 1+1=3?

  1. Being able to analyze content across platforms is a tremendous advance and offers the ability to track in an almost ZMOT mode….while census based, it had distinct advantages in its ability to inform on influence and by the often imprecise self-assessments of intent present in surveys….surveys seem to work best when they measure completed activities or assess products and services but data analytics provides and even faster path to the past (and present) and online groups and communities offer more insight into products assessments, especially when co-creation is a part of the process….while motivations and personalities can be important predictors of behavioral thresholds, the behavior in any given moment is often heavily influenced by a particular sphere of interactions that is unique not only to world events but also to common influences(rs).

    By creating a standardized method of assessment that has room for weighted, customized variables, the ability to measure a specific organization and its competitors or specific product groups becomes very possible and very much less dependent on distributed sampling 9it really doesn’t matter) and in addition, the ability to create key drivers is possible as well as an NSS (net sentiment analysis) product makes the information very relevant to both satisfaction (short term) and loyalty (long term) measurements.

    It would be interesting to compare this technology concurrently to an existing measurement. The guess would be that key drivers and key mentions are more informative on experience and ZMOT purchases than most forms of traditional research.

  2. Thank you Ellen, you are absolutely right that the only way to gauge and impact the zero moment of truth (ZMOT) is to be part of all the relevant conversations out there. The approach proposed in my post not only enables that but also provides access to 3rd party influencers who can be much more influencing than the organization concerned itself.

  3. You should check out @360i. They are constantly on the top of the Ad Age list for not only being the top digital agency, but also one of the top agencies overall. They have been using t his mixed methodology since I start doing work with them over 5 years ago, and it has defined their insights practice.

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