5 Ways businesses use social media research to add value

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Gain unprecedented insights using social media research methodologies

Our clients and partners often come to us with the same question – how can their brand benefit from social media insights? To answer this and find the most suitable solution, we always look at these three areas:

  • The maturity of a brand and competitive landscape
  • Their business strategy and objectives
  • Individual team goals

By understanding the level of insight needed and having the organisational capabilities to implement changes, we can quickly and easily build an approach best placed to tackle our clients’ challenge. And whilst most brands feel comfortable with what social media listening can offer, things get trickier when research enters the equation. Is it worth the investment? What’s the added value? How am I going to justify the spend to my senior stakeholders?

To empower clients and enable them to confidently wave the social research flag, here are five advantages of the solution. This summary focuses on what we see as major benefits that come from in-depth exploration studies, as confirmed by many international brands and businesses.

Gain unprecedented insights on mass scale

Defining key differences between quantitative and qualitative methodologies is easy for most. The former enables us to scale up, ask multiple questions to an audience and carefully match designed criteria to get results. Qualitative approaches allow for face to face interaction, a much deeper level of insight and context behind participants’ answers. Whether through interviews, focus groups or bespoke workshops, researchers get an opportunity to prompt and stimulate the audience. That’s a very simplified definition but it highlights the major differences and advantages of each methodology – the quantitative scale and the qualitative insight.

The beauty of social media research is that it combines the two, offering insights on an unprecedented scale. With the right tools and techniques, we can investigate and validate hypothesis that would normally require huge amount of time and budget investment. Tuning in to conversations driven online by specific communities, investigating their associations with brands and understanding what interests them most – this is what we do!

We cross countries and language barriers, studying consumers around the world in the environment they create -  their social universe. Through the content they generate, we learn about their expectations and unmet needs, and discover ways to win their trust and earn loyalty.

Uncover organic conversations and insight

Organic conversations consumers have online, networks they turn to for support and topics they champion are all a result of an unprompted and organic activity. Studying this content can be compared to overhearing a random conversation in a pub – allowing us to listen in but not to interrupt and ask questions (that would be rude!). It’s the best of both worlds – we’re able to narrow down topics of interest but leave it to consumers to decide how and where they talk about them.

The rise of online influencers and the increasingly popular brand partnerships mean we have to be mindful of content which is, in fact, prompted. Sponsored posts or a series of content designed in collaboration with a brand is not an accurate reflection of “an organic voice” and, depending on objectives, might have to be excluded from research.

See the bigger picture and inform your strategy

Taking social listening to the next level, research enables us to investigate context behind conversations taking place online. Rather than focusing on quantitative metrics only (volume, reach, sentiment), we go a step further to understand the driving forces behind them. What caused spikes in volumes? Did negative sentiment impact the brand? Are competitive products stealing a share of voice and how do they do it?

Seeing the big picture enables brands to come up with innovative campaigns, targeted communication strategies and competitive offerings. All based on or supported by what consumers readily share with their social networks.

Set targets and use knowledge and expertise to deliver

Brands should consider research when challenges they face are too complex to tackle with top line statistics and with little context. Simply put – if you’re thinking strategy, do research. For tactical approaches and day to day support, social media listening is the best solution.

Just as with the knowledge and expertise needed to design survey questions or structure an interview, social research requires a smart and targeted set up. A project is destined to fail if the collected data is largely irrelevant, unstructured or not representative. Parameters of a study are just as important as selecting a participant sample in an offline approach. A skilled researcher would have done their homework to ensure they know what to search for – keywords used are an equivalent of a well put interview question. And finally, making sense of collected data requires the same level of skill as interpreting survey results.

Results that impact the business

The question on everyone’s mind is this – how exactly will my business benefit from social media research? Are there any tangible results I can share with my stakeholders that will help to demonstrate results and business impact? I’m glad you asked because there’s plenty!

We’ve seen time and time again how brands successfully utilise social media research findings to boost performance and differentiate from their competition.

Richard Bassinder from Yorkshire Building Society Group highlighted here how learning more about the language consumers use helped the brand re-focus their marketing efforts and shift perception.  

P&G proudly released an entirely new product based on conversation it discovered through social media research. Through analysis of content shared by family members caring for elderly relatives the brand discovered one of the major challenges affected communities were struggling with. This in turn informed new product development, answering an unmet need no other competitors had identified.

Don’t think only big and established brands can afford to go down this route. There are plenty of small and local businesses who saw the potential of social, recognising that it’s online where their customers are likely to search for them.

It’s somewhat ironic that businesses struggle to justify investment in social media research, when in fact the methodology is so much more time and cost effective than traditional solutions. Consumer insights truly impact the future – from product innovation and development to language and style used by marketing teams – you can’t afford to miss it!

Want to take your social media research to the next level? Find out more about Linkfluence's social media research methodologies here.

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