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Why Spend So Much Time on Social Media?

Posted on  14 March 11  by 

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Can Research use social media to generate insights?  The jury’s still out.  Social media continues to be one of the hottest topics among our members—with good reason.  Here’s some food for thought:

  • A recent article in Research Magazine noted that social networking accounts for one quarter of time spent online in the US.  That’s more than email, gaming, and instant messaging combined.
  • In 2010, more than 330 companies rated Listening as the most important element of their social media strategy according to our sister program, the Market Leadership Council.  And more is on the way…
  • The Harvard Business Review recently reported that 36% of companies plan to launch sentiment analysis of social media in the next 2 – 3 years, and 33% are planning to launch some form of social media monitoring.

But social media hasn’t unleashed a flood of new consumer insights.  In fact, no research function (based on an informal survey that we did)… can fully attribute any new insights to social media listening and monitoring.  One recent study found that only 5% of research professionals incorporate social media data into research projects.  That number sounds even lower when you realize that all of the study participants were recruited through social media platforms!

At this point you may be wondering—is it even worth putting time and resources against social media as a data source?

We think so, and others agree.  It may still be early days for most research functions (40% of researchers spend less than an hour a day using social media), but we think there are a few smart things you can do to take advantage of social media:

The MREB’s 3 social media commandments:

  • Look for Short-Term Opportunity, Not Long. The best social media marketers don’t focus on high level issues like brand health or consumer psychology. Instead they focus on short-term shifts that generate positive, shorter-term opportunities. The best monitoring focuses on sudden spikes. More traditional research techniques are still the gold-standard for long-term consumer psychology.
  • Fish Where The Fish Are. Measuring the broad internet suffers from all sorts of inaccuracies. But individual communities with well-known posters are reliable and useful. For instance, is a great predictor of how “road warrior” business travelers talk and react.
  • A Great Team Player, Not a Solo Contributor. Social media works best when triangulated with slower but more reliable research methods. By itself, social media is too unreliable.  A small change to search terms can generate entirely different “insights.”

Given that social media remains top-of-mind for our members, we recently hosted a Webinar on the topic with 3 smart panelists.  The replay and materials are available on our Web site.  Take a listen to hear perspectives from some of our members, your Marketing colleagues, and Iconoculture.

And let me ask all of you—who has seen good results from their social media efforts?

Comments from the Network (1)

  1. Outliers & Observations » Walmart’s Social Shopping Agenda
    on September 12, 2011

    [...] talked before about the challenges trying create insight gold from social media (in general, and for innovation in particular too).  And for those of us who don’t have our own tech [...]

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