Recent Reads in China Digital and IWOM/Social Media , April 12, 2010

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Is Social Media Research a Replacement for Traditional Market Research?

Though I would like it to be so, I think not. However, social media research is a nice complement to traditional market research for traditional consumer insight. It also provides the additional benefit of providing context (who is talking, where the talk is, and the nature/style of the talk) that can’t be matched by any other approach and should be a key element of digital media/strategy planning.

Two recent articles:

  • Comparative Surveys in China Reveal Minimal Differences in Data Collected Online vs. CATI, New Study from Survey Sampling International and Ipsos Confirms; PR Newswire
  • Web-Tracking Research Emerging From Surveys’ Shadow; Adage

From the Ad Age article, note this quote from Kim Dedeker, chair of WPP’s Kantar Americas (Millward Brown, TNS among other WPP TNS firms):

Five years ago, while at P&G, Ms. Dedeker expressed skepticism about blogs as research tools, noting that bloggers weren’t really representative of typical P&G consumers. But asked last week whether it might be possible for marketers to replace tracking research with online sentiment monitoring, she said, “It’s very possible. We need to find better ways to enable it.”

The debate is certainly not new, dating back to 2006:

  • Is There Something Rotten in CGM Research?; Marketing Profs
  • Is There Really Something Rotten in CGM Research, AttentionMax (rebuttal)

The Role of Humans in “making sense of the buzz”

Thoughts/phrasings that have been bouncing around my head in the last month:

  • A dashboard is a tool.
  • A human provides insight and meaning. 
  • A human uses a dashboard to generate insight and meaning.
  • If your tool sucks, your insight will suck.
  • Even with a good tool, your insight might suck.
  • A good tool is necessary, but not sufficient for good insight.
  • A good ‘human’ is necessary but not sufficient for good insight.

Perhaps this is obvious, but you would be surprised that clients/agencies for get such subtle, but very important facts.  Do you have the right person who knows how to use the dashboard? Does the person know how to generate AND communicate insight? Recent articles from the echo chamber of social media analytics (I’m a proud member) suggest that insight as human driven is finally beginning to resonate.

I do think there are two levels of “analysts” that are often missed. One level is the analyst who is a researcher, i.e. ‘makes sense of the buzz.” The above articles refer to this type of analyst.

Another level of analyst is the one who knows how to use the tool. One of the key challenges, for example, is to input terms to represent a topic to be analyzed. As Nathan points out, even such tasks are not easy, and cites this example from using Boolean logic to track mobile phone operator “Orange”:

(Orange OR subject:Orange -subject:light -light -“Clockwork Orange” -subject:”Clockwork Orange” -“orange box” -subject:”orange box” -juice -subject:juice -fruit -subject:fruit -peel -subject:peel -“Orange Wednesday” -subject:”Orange Wednesday” -“orange county” -subject:”orange county” -“clock work orange” -subject:”clock work orange” -“orange ink” -subject:”orange ink” -“bright orange” -subject:”bright orange” -“dark orange” -subject:”dark orange” -“light orange” -subject:”light orange” -(“color orange”~3) -subject:(“color orange”~3) – (“style orange”~3) -subject:(“style orange”~3)) AND ( (SMS OR MMS OR HDSPA OR “Mobile Phone” OR GSM OR GPRS OR 3G OR SIM OR handset OR “Sony Ericsson” OR Nokia OR HTC OR Motorola OR BlackBerry OR iPhone OR PAYG OR “pay-as-you-go” OR “Network Provider” OR UMTS OR WAP OR PDA OR “PAC Code” OR Cellphone OR OFCOM OR phones4u OR voda OR vodafone OR tmobile OR tmob OR “T-mobile” OR T-Mob) OR subject:(SMS OR MMS OR HDSPA OR “Mobile Phone” OR GSM OR GPRS OR 3G OR SIM OR handset OR “Sony Ericsson” OR Nokia OR HTC OR Motorola OR BlackBerry OR iPhone OR PAYG OR “pay-as-you-go” OR “Network Provider” OR UMTS OR WAP OR PDA OR “PAC Code” OR Cellphone OR OFCOM OR phones4u OR voda OR vodafone OR tmobile OR tmob OR “T-mobile” OR T-Mob) )

Now, try adding a level of language/cultural nuance, say, for Chinese. Like many markets, Chinese net language/slang is vivid, dynamic and essential to make sure you are finding appropriate references (see example with Ford here and here for background on overall Chinese net language).

See also:
Recent reads from February 2010
Recent reads from January 2010

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