Social media research is still a very young field in market research and, in fact, at this point we can’t definitively call it market research. However, it is clear that what is called social media research has the potential to be a valuable component of market research. The reasons are obvious: the sheer volume of information that can be obtained, and the ease and cost-effectiveness with which it can be gathered. Currently, social media monitoring can serve as an excellent supplement to traditional market research information. Because of this, we offer social media monitoring services to our clients. Depending upon the needs of our client, we will employ either free tools, or fee-based services, or a combination of both.

Following are the two social media research methods we provide:

Social Media Monitoring

Social media monitoring, also commonly referred to as social media listening, is all about listening to what’s going on on the Web, from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, and the numerous other social media hubs on the Web.

This mass of information poses a daunting task in making any kind of sense of it all.  Fortunately there are a multitude of services available to help make sense of all the conversations we need to track.  Many of these are free.  There are also many fee-based services.  The fee-based services are generally going to provide a more comprehensive array of tools, provide more robust analysis, and have more accurate sentiment analysis algorithms.  In short, you get what you pay for, so generally speaking, if you need comprehensive and robust tools, the fee-based services are the way to go.

At this point in the evolution of social media monitoring, a number of important caveats need to be kept in mind.  These are: 1) Not all of the Web is accessible by monitoring bots/crawlers, such as large parts of Facebook; 2) Keyword analysis is still a work in progress in terms of accurately identifying keywords, though it’s quickly improving; 3) The ability to segment the information (e.g., by demographics, geographically, by business identifiers) is still not possible from most social media sources, though researchers are actively looking at ways to layer this onto the information; 4) The conversations we’re listening to don’t pertain to any specific question (as in a traditional survey) or in many cases even a particular topic.  Thus, the context of much of the information is missing.

Despite these caveats, the magnitude of the information and ease of obtaining it make social media monitoring too attractive to ignore.  Plus, in fairly short order the caveats/problems noted above should resolve themselves: keyword analysis accuracy is getting better; identifying customers, fans, key influencers, etc., is improving, through source tagging; engagement techniques with customers, fans, key influencers, can help in filling in the context gap by following up with them and asking questions and soliciting advice from them (and this not only provides valuable information, but also nurtures strong relationships with mavens for your brand).

The key component of social media monitoring is sentiment analysis.  This is what companies and organizations really need to look at; that is, the qualitative nature of the posts or conversations taking place (i.e., are we getting more positive or negative comments about our company; what exactly are they talking about regarding our company), vs. just the number of times your organization’s name is coming up.   Social media analysis services (e.g., Sysomos, BrandWatch), use algorithms that analyze the keywords and the context within which they are used, and do a fairly good job of sentiment analysis.

Influencer Analysis (Blog Monitoring)

In addition to sentiment analysis, the other important component of social media monitoring is to be able to find out who the influencers are for the brand or organization.  This is important because influencers are, by definition, influential in getting out positive (or sometimes negative) buzz about a brand/organization, and thus need to be engaged with and nurtured (or in the case of negative influencers, countered), so that their influence can be amplified.  Engagement with influencers is a key part of any organization’s social media marketing strategy, so identifying obviously has to be a top priority.

We conduct influencer analysis in partnership with eCairn, the pioneer in this important field of social media research.