Consumers have an appetite for fresh experiences from brands, products, and services. The list of experiences that consumers are exposed to is broad. They can include physical interaction with products, engagement with a service, a conversation with a friend, exposure to brand communication and media, or talking with customer service or help resources — even the exploration of price can generate an experience. Increasingly, as customers engage with the various “touch-points” of your business, they are able express their opinions about their experience – was it valuable or irrelevant? Was it positive or negative?
To understand where you can credibly initiate, improve, or expand positive interactions, businesses need to keep a finger on the “pulse” of their relationship and exchanges with customers. Increasingly, “Social Listening” is providing businesses with a broad range of solutions to capture and aggregate consumer sentiment being volunteered. However, while Social Listening can contribute unprecedented amounts of information to maintain the “pulse,” businesses must be careful not to relax into thinking that it is representative of a complete picture.
Insights that consumers volunteer or share via social media are harvested and synthesized from data obtained through largely automated processes and third party sources. In general, these processes and sources are relatively low cost and yield a significant volume of data that can be sifted regularly (some in real time) with great efficiency. However, the volume and efficiency can make it very easy to rely too heavily on these insights. Over time, this reliance can cultivate a risky perception that companies are working with a complete and accurate understanding of target consumers.
The reality is that consumers may feel and behave very differently from what they volunteer when they are out in real world – often beyond the reach of social media capture points – and not everyone is active on social media. Mainstream customers who are in the habit of using your product may be so comfortable with it that they don’t comment about it via social media. Without doing broad, representative research, you won’t know. There can be huge differences between volunteered comments to social media, self-selected samples (e.g., responses to polls), and recruited samples in terms of types of feedback, levels (self-selected samples tend to be high-raters), and representation. This is a critically important distinction that businesses need to me mindful of: the difference between insights gathered from Social Listening, and the deeper, more intentional understanding obtained through scientific market research approaches to questioning, analysis, and reporting.
So, to secure a more accurate, trustworthy, and insightful “pulse,” companies must design and integrate market research programs that offset the liabilities of bias and limited scope of what is being volunteered via social media. PhiPower works with businesses to design and conduct a broad spectrum of research at appropriate intervals throughout the year. This research can be configured to work in tandem with Social Listening.
By taking this approach, businesses are able to keep what is heard via social listening in perspective, surface what may be missing and is NOT being volunteered, and “tease out” insights that are not obvious in consumer behavior (Big Data). The combination of social listening, Big Data, and complementary research that is discerning and introspective can lead to deep, foundational understanding, game-changing development, and marketing and communication that reward customers with consistent, relevant, fresh experiences.
Critical Distinction Between Social Listening and Research