The advent of social media has thrown plethora of opportunities for marketers to uncover insights about consumers and their discussions surrounding brands, company or on any topics. Traditionally, marketers were relying on conventional research methods to obtain or gather data about consumers or on any topic. Questionnaires, surveys, interviews, focus group and other approaches were widely used to obtain data. Though one cannot question the validity or relevance of these methods, one cannot deny the shortcomings they bring along with them. It could be cost, time or at times even the reliability of responses given by consumers. Today consumers neither have the time nor the attention span to answer all queries. Even if they do answer, they tend to give socially acceptable answers at times. More often than not, these approaches take place in a controlled environment where opinions are prompted and biased.
Companies that have embraced social media have the privilege to access unfiltered data any time. Opinions expressed by consumers in social media about brands are unfiltered and uncontrolled. With the advent of sophisticated social media monitoring tools like Klout, Twazzup, Social Mention, Hoot suite, to name a few, it is possible for companies to uncover insights about competitors, consumers and industry trends any time. It enables companies to monitor what consumers really think about their customer service and products. Besides one can also monitor their competitor’s online activity simply by observing what consumers are talking about competitor’s brand in the social media? What competitors are doing to engage their customers? Any news about their new product launch, latest marketing campaign can also be tracked using social media platforms.
It helps companies to spot industry trends simply by tracking thought leaders and their opinions that are posted and shared across various platforms like LinkedIn, twitter and face book. Social media platforms also yield us a steady stream of real time or near real time data which is not possible in traditional market research. By the time, researcher collates all the traditional data for analysis, things might have changed for better or worse. Consequently researchers operate with outdated or stale data which has no bearing on the end results.
According to a survey done by Booz & company/buddy media in October 2011, it was found that 35% of companies currently have the capability for “consumer insights generation via social media while another 56% are currently building or will soon build capability for extracting consumer insights generated via social media. 16% of the companies also said that their research team has responsibility today to monitor and lead social media in their organizations.
To conclude, social media can give researchers a window of opportunity to gain deeper insights about consumers, competitors and industry trends simply by tracking the conversations surrounding brands, companies, competitors and industry trends. Well, what sort of an impact will social media have on traditional market research? I see two possibilities here. Social media can either replace traditional market research or it supplements traditional market research. Ultimately the use of social media monitoring as a research tool depends on various factors like nature of research, perceived degree of relevance to an industry or topic of study, time, budget and finally the capability of an organization in generating insights via social media.