Posts Tagged ‘Social Media Research’

Ben Smithee, our fearless leader, is the Chairman of next week’s Future of Consumer Intelligence (#FOCI13) event in San Fran!

He will be the emcee of the event, introducing many awesome speakers & running around like crazy — spending the days/nights talking shop with attendees about research, strategy & the future of the industry (#FutureOfMRX).  Ben, Katy & Landon from SPYCH will all be at the conference hotel (Parc 55 Hotel) from Mon-Thurs of next week, so please let us know if you’re around so we can set a time to meet & hopefully catch-up over a snack or a drink!

The Future is Here

If you take the time to “SHARE” this post, we’re using this to keep track of who from our existing network is there & will buy you a beverage (coffee… or scotch) to celebrate! :)

Please connect with us here & help us spread this message, ensuring we all get a chance to meet up & have a bit of fun while discussing the #FutureOfMRX!

Looking forward to it,

The SPYCH Team

Happy late-January! We’re wrapping-up our blog series, so thanks for your ‘likes’, emails and feedback about the posts and about Ben’s article in VUE Magazine!

Since it has taken a few weeks – and to further illustrate how quickly the environment we live in is changing – we are concluding this series by having our fearless leader, Ben, take these predictions a bit further. This will be in a post NEXT WEEK, so check out key point #3 – Evolving Media – in the mean time. We’ll see you here next week for Ben’s recap and some exciting predictions for the #FutureOfMRX! 

To ensure you’re up-to-speed, check out the last 2 posts - The #FutureOfMRX is in Fusing the Great Divide – Part 1 of 3 and/or The #FutureOfMRX is in Fusing the Great Divide – Part 2 of 3.  Key point #3 is our focus for this week, and it is all about Evolving Media:

Blog POst Photo 3

3) Evolving Media

As brands begin to focus more on mobility, it’s no surprise that advertising and marketing will follow and focus on the trending rise of mobility. However, it’s not only the media channel that will begin to shift; it’s also the way consumers engage with media that will evolve. The continuation of media’s becoming more web-based allows the pivot from a purely broadcast model to one that is more engaging and one that incorporates user/viewer interaction.

The socialization of journalism (whether viewed as a positive or negative) is a very real transition, and clearly something we as researchers must understand. All media will in some way become “social” media, and researchers will be tasked with helping brands understand this new arena, and with maximizing desired effect. Will traditional media measurement models like Nielsen evolve? Or, will new solutions and technologies (think: Social Media Listening) become the norm?

Though we have such a myriad of options and approaches to understanding people and their behaviors, it is the combination and hybrid utilization of these options that will power the researcher of tomorrow.

As you evaluate what research means in the future landscape, you must recognize that research has grown tremendously in scope, and its value to brands and organizations has never been greater. But, to capitalize fully on this opportunity, researchers must be willing to evolve and grow with the industry. We will be quicker to the draw on understanding new technologies and applications, yet we will not lose sight of our need to vet and evaluate opportunity and bias. It is clear that the research world of tomorrow is more complex and, in many ways, confusing. But we have many opportunities to add value, and we see researchers having a much more impactful seat at the table.

Like, comment and share (via icons directly below) while you can to make any valid points, because next week Ben gives his updated, more risky predictions!

Thanks, again,

- The SPYCH Team

Next Week  –  2/1/13  -  Updated Predictions

Last week, we kicked off our 3-week blog series looking toward the future and where the marketing research industry is heading. Thanks for your ‘likes’, emails and feedback about the post and about Ben’s article in VUE Magazine!

What’s next? For the next 2 weeks, we will be building off the first key point of focus – “Understanding through Observation” – and taking you further into our thoughts about the #FutureOfMRX! This quote from last week should get you up-to-speed on the post’s content:

In our opinion, the most valuable learnings are those that come from a point of observing behaviors and then, through dialogue, uncovering the underlying thoughts and emotive contexts behind those behaviors.

If you didn’t see it, check out last week’s before moving forward - The #FutureOfMRX is in Fusing the Great Divide – Part 1 of 3. Key point #2 is our focus for this week, and it is all about Multi-faceted Mobility.

#FutureOfMRX

As we continue looking forward to 2013 and subsequent years, let’s dive deeper into a few key points of focus that researchers should both understand and digest: (1) understanding through observation, (2) multi-faceted mobility, and (3) evolving media.

2) Multi-faceted Mobility

Mobile is perhaps the most important factor for the future of research and the largest contributor to why we are empowered with greater observational opportunities – although we are just now scratching the surface of what mobility brings to the game! That said, we must think much bigger than surveys optimized for the smartphone. The smallest of our multi- screen world has become by far the most important. While we still consume fragments of media through our televisions, we consume the media that drives our daily lives and actions through our mobile devices.

By learning how to navigate the world of mobility, research unlocks a plethora of understanding about consumers’ preferences, their behaviors, and the way they live their lives.

Over the next couple of years, begin to look for companies to invest really heavily in utilizing mobility for understanding. Look for things such as mobile-based communities, advancements in passive listening/tracking panels,and advancements in mechanisms for direct feedback from consumers straight to brands. We will see more and more commerce being funneled through mobile devices, as well as the integration of mobile into other arenas of media and advertising – such as second-screen applications, in-store shopping assistance, and other ways in which brands will encourage mobile usage.

The typical limitations are still applicable – for example, mobile WiFi, limited signal strength in certain regions, penetration of smartphone users and data speed – but these limitations are quickly diminishing, opening up a world of new insights for researchers to understand!

You agree? Are we missing anything? We encourage you to like, comment and share

Thanks, again for reading, and come back next week for key point #3!

- The SPYCH Team

Week 3  -  1/18/13  -  Evolving Media

As week 1 of 2013 is underway, let’s look toward the future and where the marketing research industry is heading… Most of us are familiar with the recent influx of new technologies, methodologies and theories – many of which are discussed on the Next Gen Market Research blog. Most of us are also familiar with and have recently ridden quite the economic roller coaster.

What’s next? Over the next 3 weeks, we’re diving into 3 points of focus Ben Smithee recently hit on in the December issue of MRIA’s VUE Magazine. These are our thoughts on key points we think researchers should be aware of and understand, so please read through and let us know your thoughts when you can! Future | Past | Present

While unfortunately we have no crystal ball, we definitely have some thoughts… :) There will probably be a culminating shift where the energy of the past few years of stretching, branching and exploring the new and uncharted is now focused on aggregating these efforts and skills into comprehensive solutions and approaches. Basically, as researchers continue to gain a more diverse understanding of the consumer, we will start to see things realign under a more holistic approach.

We are by no means suggesting the industry will stop growing or we will stop expanding our vision and exploring new opportunities and technologies, but we ARE suggesting that the focus of the next few years will be on bringing together all that we have learned into powerful, hybrid approaches.

As we look forward to 2013 and subsequent years, let’s walk through a few key points of focus that researchers should both understand and digest: (1) understanding through observation, (2) multi-faceted mobility, and (3) evolving media.

1) Understanding through Observation

As technology grows and researchers are equipped with more and more tools to observe behavior in real time, we will continue to see growth in the areas of research that focus on observational insights. In-depth discussions, focus groups, and other Q&A-based methods will likely still exist, but they will be utilized as supplementary methods to dig deeper into understanding the why behind observed actions.

These traditional in-person methods will also be leveraged in special niche arenas where observational techniques fall short – for example, in sensitive health-care topics, personal hygiene, and other areas where observing consumers directly will substantially bias the results. Traditional methods will also still play a heavy role in the world of advertising and messaging, as group feedback and discussion still offer tremendous value.

While many would now insert Henry Ford’s objection that ‘people would have asked for faster horses,’ we refuse to believe a keen researcher would have presented the results as ‘build a faster horse,’ and wouldn’t have dug deeper into the true consumer need state – but that’s a whole different discussion.

In our opinion, the most valuable learnings are those that come from a point of observing behaviors and then, through dialogue, uncovering the underlying thoughts and emotive contexts behind those behaviors.

Therefore, in our opinion, a researcher without some form of observational prowess (in either the physical or digital environment) will be severely limited in the future.

Do you agree? Are we missing anything? We welcome your comments, as we’re all in this together and looking forward to a successful 2013!

Thanks for reading, and come back next week for key point #2!

- The SPYCH Team

Week 2  -  1/11/13  -  Multi-faceted Mobility

Week 3  -  1/18/13  -  Evolving Media

We made it through Thanksgiving without eating too much (although my suit was tight this morning) and survived “Black Friday” with a little technological assistance. On that note, we should point out that Black Friday online sales TOPPED $1 BILLION for the first time in history. To help you prep for next year (and for Christmas), there are a couple apps and sites someone on our team used or we know others enjoyed – and here is our quick explanation/use case:

ShopSavvy is great for comparison shopping while SnipSnap helps you to “cut coupons” and be pinged by your phone when close to stores you have coupons for. Wallaby keeps track of your rewards cards and suggests what card might be the best to make a purchase based on what rewards you will earn. Obviously, there are MANY more, but those are the ones that we directly saw/utilized and that came to mind. If you want more reviews, you know the drill – “google it”. Some big brands that did it right were Best Buy, Target, Walmart and Apple as they offered mobile couponing and other in-the-moment rewards (even some rewards for hidden items). For the record, TaskRabbit is more my (Landon’s) speed… Long story short, it lets people do your shopping for you which I will never complain about! :)

Okay, now it’s “Cyber Monday” which – based on what we’re projecting – will be dubbed “Mobile Monday” moving forward. We’re a research firm at our core, so we have plenty of facts, figures and detailed explanations as to why this will happen. However, for brevity purposes, we will only share 2 simple reasons:

1) It sounds better

2) Internet access is WAY too accessible (from numerous types of “mobile” devices) for everyone to just wait around until Monday

This is where we need our fellow tech geeks’ help… Below are a few options for “Mobile Monday” shopping (some mentioned above) and we need to know what we’re missing. Check out the list below and let us know if we’re missing some apps that really enhance the mobile shopping experience!

Android:

iPhone:

Windows Phone:

What else?

Happy shopping, and we look forward to your help in updating this list! If you need us, we’ll actually be working! :)

- Landon

“You are such a hipster.” “I am not a hipster. I am just me,” my sister replied, trying to be ironic (hallmark hipster trait), Her response proved my point seeing as according to The Hipster Handbook, “a hipster never admits to being a hipster,” (Lanham, 2003).  Still, I made a vain attempt to define it for her. This task was far more difficult than I had suspected…

Attempt A: A subculture of upper and middle class over-educated youth rejecting (or pretending to) social mores and norms. Attempt B: Self-proclaimed nonconformists conforming to a new set of “counterculture” rules. My sister looked at me with eyes that said, “seriously?”  Attempt C: Hipsters are defined by a certain characteristic sartorial choice including but not limited to skinny jeans, deep V-necks, scarves, messy hair, and obviously vintage-looking (emphasis on looking) handbags. Looking at her outfit, she was caught red-handed, but still appeared to disagree.  So, I resorted to the number one authority on definitions: urban dictionary.  I read this aloud: a subculture of men and women typically in their 20′s and 30′s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter. And then, I showed her this YouTube video… I recommend it for those seeking a more comprehensive (and hilarious!) explanation of this cultural phenomena.

Hipster (Urban Dictionary): A subculture of men and women typically in their 20′s and 30′s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.

Now, why is this relevant to a market research blog? Well, yes ok, it involves Gen-Y, but it is more than that… The emergence of the hipster trend is indicative of a greater cultural shift towards counterculture and anti-consumerist notions. We are seeing these trends on a nationwide scale, consider the Occupy rallies as exhibit A. Or the sudden couponing craze, exhibit B. Or the reintroduction of vintage into mainstream fashion, exhibit C (Penelope Cruz in a vintage dress at the Oscars in 2009, the popularity of “Fashion Hunters” a reality show about a designer second-hand store in Manhattan). My point is these seemingly innocuous bunch have (intentionally or not) set forth ideas that have permeated the mainstream. And tapping into their buying behavior is not a task for the feeble.

Check out the approach of this Australian ad by Honda. I’d be interested to know how many hipsters actually enjoyed this ad. I would argue that non-hispsters likely enjoyed this advertisement more than the hipster demographic due to the almost-mocking use of magnified stereotypes. And the fact that many hipsters don’t have TVs. That said, take a look at this hilarious mock-up  by Kurt Snibee. While it may not be a real ad campaign, it cuts to the heart of what we as researchers must do… Take the time to understand the consumer.

As the case is with my sister and her hipster friends, often the consumer doesn’t understand him or herself.

Written By:  Margo Aaron, Research Consultant

References: Lanham, R. (2003). The Hipster Handbook. New York: Anchor Books.


Here is something to chew on as you start to wrap up 2010 and hopefully have already begun thinking about 2011.  I want to know your thoughts as well, so please share!

The walls fall down:

Researchers are finally going to get sick of talking about this qual/quant divide.  So many blended advancements will also help to break bricks and create a universal language which we will call understanding.  That is, understanding the consumer first as a person (More on that in a bit).

Another barrier that will continue to deteriorate in the 2011 is this MR silo.  It’s inefficient and quickly becoming a barrier to the almighty Understanding…at least in achieving it in an effective and efficient means.  MR is going to be a facet of the entire communications/customer relationship mix.  Those walls between marketing/advertising/PR/etc. are coming down too.  MR will follow.  Communications, driven by the consumer, are too fast to have completely segregated teams trying to keep up.  That gap between the marketing and MR teams will diminish rapidly, and it’s okay…I promise!

Consumer is King:

We’ve gone through content, the message, the medium, and a bunch of other manifestations of king, but the true focus will be on the consumer, and not as a customer….as a person.  Panel/sample providers will focus on better knowledge of them.  Researcher/moderators will focus on better relating to them.  Companies/brands will focus on treating them and communicating with them in better formats.  B2C, B2C, C2C, it’s all the same when you drill down to the basics of humanity….unless you sell to robots.  People have wants and needs, they are rational and irrational, and people work with and buy from people they like.  Are you likeable?

V=[(R+T)/A]-P:

It looks confusing, but it isn’t.  It’s about value.  It always has been, and always will be!  Value equals Relevance and Timeliness over accountability, minus price.

Expectations of relevance are extremely high, and will continue to grow even higher.  The digital persona provides a high-level of detail about our lives, wants and needs.  As people, we expect communications to be tailored and relevant, it will be researchers’ jobs to translate and interpret into digestible and executable bites.

Timeliness is redefined.  People expect faster results from Companies, Companies want faster results from MR and MR wants faster support from its suppliers.  Nothing will change that.  It’s do or die.  Embrace the tools that serve as a life vest because the storm is coming.

People want that same level of highly tailored relevance every time they interact and engage a brand.  They expect the brand to be accountable, and they will find someone else if the brand falls short.

Price is not irrelevant; it’s just not the most important piece of the pie.  Sometimes the reduction in price/monetary value is not a cheapening of status, but more-so a re-balancing and association with relevance and overall worth.  Consumers will pay more for greater value in return.  With the advancement of transparency through social media there are just less places to hide.

Under the Influence:

This whole rise of interest in the influencer model is not a fad.  Influence matters and the way in which people obtain, sustain and utilize influence will be highly studied by companies and researchers.  Do you have influence?  What is influence?  How do I get it?  What do I do with it?  How do I measure it?  Figure out the answers to those questions, because your clients are going to ask you for them.  Researchers will need to know how to identify, relate to, understand and utilize influence in the world of communication.

Hybrids:

I’m not talking about cars.  I am talking about the blend between what we call traditional and new, in-person and online, and quant and qual.  After the walls come down, we build new ponds where ecosystems consisting of appropriate blends and mixes of these variables exist in not only harmony, but synergy.  Many researchers talk about the ideal projects where clients approach them with a problem in need of a solution, rather than a request in need of a bid.  Well, I fell like you will have your chance 2011, are you ready?  We will need to know the full plethora of research solutions and how they best apply to providing specific solutions to client problems.

Mobility:

The smallest of the “three screens” is going to be the most important in 2011.  If you look at the formula for value I portrayed above, then it’s no surprise that mobile devices have a huge play in 2011.  We have only scratched the surface of what we can do with mobile.  Get ready for amazing advancements in 2011!

Leadership and Collaboration:

We’ve talked about influence, now let’s talk leadership and collaboration.  We have driven to such specialization in today’s world that in order to keep up, things are going to have to do a bit more consolidating in order to be most effective.  I see smaller companies being incorporated into bigger ones and several companies who are smaller and more specialize teaming up to go after bigger wins and offer more complete solutions.  It’s not really a surprise; it’s history.  If you are seen as a leader in the space your role with clients will evolve in 2011, from leading individual projects, to more of a consultative partnership with clients (this is a good thing!).

Collaboration on the consumer side of things is not too much different.  We’ve made enough mistakes in collaborative design and crowd sourcing that in 2011 we will maximize its efficiency and effectiveness.  It’s really not that different of a total concept from what he have always done in MR.  As researchers, our job has revolved around crowd sourcing ideas, concepts, feedback etc.

This list does not serve as an exhaustive list of changes to expect in 2011, and I may even post some additional thoughts at a later date.  But, I think it gives us something to think about, and discuss as a starting point.  What do you think?  What is missing?  What points do you argue?

Thanks for stopping by!

BACKGROUND
The evolution of Social Media is perhaps the most perplexing and comprehensive enhancement of the Internet we have seen this past decade. By reshaping the way people communicate on both a personal and professional level, the social web has taken Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations, Customer Service, Communications and Marketing Research to the next level, through a variety of new channels and tools.

As with any dramatic change within the marketing research landscape, it comes with expected hesitance and thorough inspection. However, as a crucial piece of the evolving business environment, the social web and social media tools have quickly become a key focus in the marketing research community. While various levels of surrounding scrutiny remain present, to this date, emphasis and direction has been placed greatly on the appeal of utilizing tools and social networks, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogs, for quantitative research and syndicated data analysis. However, taking a holistic look at social media and its core, shows a tremendous amount of value in leveraging its conversations for engaging consumers and cultivating rich insights in the qualitative setting.

As businesses continue to more effectively harness the power of social media and online communities for branding, marketing and various other communications and customer-relations functions, the importance for marketing research professionals to utilize the same social tools for research grows concurrently. The trending growth and transfer of advertising and marketing dollars from “traditional” media channels such as TV, radio, outdoor and print to newer more engaging channels such as user-generated video, online communities and social tools, shows a paradigm shift in today’s business culture.

IMRO, the Interactive Marketing Research Organization, is a division of the Marketing Research Association (MRA) and is dedicated to providing an open forum for the discussion of best practices and ethical approaches to research being conducted via the Internet.  IMRO’s Technology Sub-committee team of Tamara Kenworthy, Jim Longo, Susan Saurage-Altenloh and Jewel Seperson set out to explore the utilization of these new social media tools for qualitative research. Rather than focusing another study on the theory of using these new tools, they sought out Benjamin Smithee, Co-Founder of Spych Market Analytics, LLC, who has been recognized as one of the leaders in the integration of social media and other online and traditional methods into holistic solutions for qualitative research. Together, under Ben’s leadership, the project team developed and effectively executed a three-phase comprehensive examination of how social media can effectively be used for qualitative research and how the blend of social, online and traditional qualitative methods can provide truly holistic insights for researchers and their clients.

PURPOSE OF STUDY
The purpose of the study described in this document was to explore the optimal utilization of social media in qualitative research and serve as a case study for all researchers looking to incorporate it into their methodologies and research toolbox. It provides actionable recommendations and exemplifies the nuances of how the social web can best apply to market research in the qualitative setting.  Additionally, it showcases the value of utilizing a holistic approach for obtaining consumer insights via blended methodologies.

Marketing research professionals are increasingly tasked to stay on the leading edge of technology and marketing channels in order to provide innovative and effective solutions for their clients. This case study provides a valuable set of findings to professionals across the gamut of research. It is meant to serve as a landmark while helping to educate research professionals.

STUDY DESIGN
For our case study, the following topics were selected due to their general interest and popularity with a wide range of the B2C market.

As a caveat, please understand that the main focus of this study was not the particular insights derived from the research, but the comparison and utilization of methodologies.  Though the insights were used as measurement tools to compare and contrast methods and channels, the content was not of particular interest to the team.  For example, the fact that coffee grounds were difficult to remove from the packaging was not of interest.  However, the fact that it was derived unprompted via social media monitoring and then was a discussion point later in the online and in-person work was of interest.

  • Saturday Night Live premiere, September 24, 2009
    - Hosted by Megan Fox
    - Musical Guest U2
  • Starbucks’ Via, new product advertising, shown on SNL premiere as part of ad launch
    - Buzz about product and commercials pre and post-commercial launch

Goal:

  • To examine the impact and value of utilizing social media and mixed methods for qualitative research

Objectives for Topic:

  • To understand the impact of SNL season opener on the SNL brand
  • To understand how the SNL premiere’s host is received, based on recent controversy surrounding the director of her recent film
  • To identify awareness of and interest in Starbucks’ new product, Via

A three-phase comprehensive mixed-methodological approach was designed and implemented over the course of two months, with 2 weeks of fielding, exploring the use of social media tools in various methods of qualitative research both online and in-person.


RESEARCH PHASE I
Digital Ethnography via Social Media Aggregation and Analytics

Rich and candid insights provided in real-time via digital ethnography and social media engagement; Recruitment of respondents for Phase II and Phase III

  • Real-time monitoring before, during and after premiere via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and existing online communities
  • Monitored sentiment trends
  • Obtained viewer reactions and insights to a variety of different “peaks” and “valleys” throughout the course of the research
  • Monitored trending topics before, during and after the premiere
  • Identified key discussion leaders and influencers via reach, engagement and impact

Tools:

  • Facebook:  Search, Community Pages, Fan Pages, Facebook-based apps
  • Twitter:  Location-based application, Real-time search, TweetDeck, HootSuite, Advanced Search (search.twitter.com)
  • Google Reader – RSS Feeds
  • LinkedIn
  • TV Network Communities
  • SNL Blogs

RESEARCH PHASE II
Online Bulletin Board/Fire-walled Social Communities and Video Journaling

Compare and contrast insights derived from Phase I with data and insights derived from Phase I1; Further focus placed specifically on Starbucks Via (commercial campaign launched during premiere), which evoked high levels of online interaction; Video journaling via Flip video cameras; Respondents added Ben as friends and followers on various social media tools, allowing the team to observe various interactions and conversations on Facebook, blogs and Twitter

  • Online Bulletin Board (software provided by Itracks) with viewers of the premiere: half of the participants comprised of those recruited via traditional recruitment means and half of the participants recruited solely via social media engagement
  • Discussion revolving around feedback on the premiere, its content and Via advertising
  • Video Self-Ethnos utilizing Flip video cameras
  • Monitored daily objectives surrounding Starbucks Via
  • Monitored respondents’ spontaneous utilization of SM
  • Compare and contrast sentiment and viewpoints from both respondent groups with data captured in Phase 1

Tools:

  • Itracks:  Online Bulletin Board Focus Group platform
  • Recruitment from Itracks panels
  • Spych recruited individuals via social media from Phase 1 social media monitoring and engagement

RESEARCH PHASE III
In-person Focus Groups

Comparison of opinions and insights obtained via Phases I and II with traditional in-person methods.

  • In-person Focus Groups following the Video Self-Ethnos obtaining feedback on Starbucks Via and

Tools:

  • Facility donated by Fieldwork Dallas


SUMMARY AND FINDINGS
Commentary and Thoughts by Ben Smithee

Having had experience utilizing the power of social media for qualitative research, I was not surprised to see compelling results when used in combination with other well-trusted methodologies and tools. Its ability to often assist the researcher in every phase of the research process, from study design, recruiting and discussion guide development, to communication with respondents and reporting is a tremendous asset to any qualitative project.

Though the use of social media may not officially make it into every project’s methodology, I rarely start a project without doing background research and monitoring via social media about the subject, brand or other related online communication. Once you become familiar with the tools and technology, you often find tremendous value in the nuggets of insights that are cast out into the social media realm.

For this case, in particular, information about the difficulty of removing all of the grounds from the package was derived from observing social media streams and then later were brought up again in both the bulletin boards and focus groups and observed in the video journals. Additionally, insights on the frequent use of Via for cooking and baking provided additional information that was later utilized in discussion guide development. The use of social media to enhance pre-research knowledge may be the most valuable addition to the researcher’s toolbox. As a caveat, these findings are extremely qualitative in nature and should be utilized as idea generators and possible discussion topics to further more in-depth research, rather than stand-alone “truths” and assumptions.

Another very valuable and growing capability for social media is identification of digital influence and recruiting potential. By thorough observation of conversations, commenting, responses, retweets, “likes” and other engagement metrics, researchers can begin to identify individuals or groups, portraying influence in the social media channels. Though there is not always a direct correlation between messages and communications from influencers and purchase behavior, there is definite usefulness in having brands appear in these conversations and engagements. There is, however, a key to successful recruiting and engaging influencers via social media and that lies in the researcher/company possessing and maintaining an active presence in the social space. Within the social media realm, trust is a valuable currency and without it, the ability to effectively recruit and engage is severely limited. Researchers and research companies must begin to build an active presence to fully-utilize the value of social media tools.

The nimble aspect of social media lends itself to the ability to monitor marketing and advertising campaigns in real-time and react to and monitor both positive and negative effects and responses within the natural digital environments. Think of this as being able to engage viewers of a television advertisement directly through the television, as they view and react to the ad in real-time. This real-time reaction and engagement allows researchers to obtain candid insights and probe further among “in the moment” thoughts and reactions to various stimuli. Additionally, you are able to view and engage in the setting in which the initial observation was made. This is something that is unique to the social media realm.

Overall, perhaps the most compelling outcome of this study came from looking at the utilization of social media within the holistic mix of online and traditional in-person research. The findings in each phase were very cumulative in nature. Rather than one particular method serving as most/least useful, it was very apparent that there is a particular role for each method within the qualitative spectrum. Social media monitoring and engagement offered new ways to mine insights that have never been available and provided valuable material to help build and design additional methods to obtain more in-depth insights. The rapport built and managed from utilizing online research before in-person provided the respondents with a familiarity and comfort, allowing us to dig into rich and comfortable conversation very quickly in the in-person setting, even with multiple “typically-shy” respondents in the groups. The respondents were even vocal about their comfort level in the in-person setting due to the previous video, online and social phases.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Thoughts for the Future by Ben Smithee

So what does this mean for the future of qualitative research? How do all of these tools and methods work together to provide solutions for companies and brands? What should the interested researcher focus on in regard to the future of the industry? Though there is no crystal ball for this rapidly changing industry, I am willing to put it out there and offer what I make of all of this.

The future of qualitative research is bright and the myriad of available tools and methodologies will continue to grow and multiply. Savvy researchers will embrace these changes and utilize them to their full advantage. Start on the very high-level and look at industry and overall trends. Then begin to look at the leading tools/platforms within those trends, as that is the only way to keep up. For example, do not go straight to Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging communities. Instead look at the bigger picture of online communities and what they mean to the qualitative space. Then identify the major or most important players within that space. After all, it is not really about Twitter, it is truly about the fact it has brought about the face of real-time communication and two-way brand engagement. If you always try to keep up with the next available platform or technology, rather than the trend of technologies, you will always be behind.

The science and art of location-based applications and marketing will continue to change the face of marketing and advertising as we know it. The ability to reach consumers in a relevant and timely manner, with offers and content that is desirable to the individual, offers a new and potentially highly-effective way of impacting behavior. After all, we are not averse to marketing and advertising. We just expect it to be relevant and have perceived value to us personally.

The sense of online communities is here to stay and will continue to evolve over the next couple of years. Brands will further engage in branded communities and begin to further focus on the influencers and brand champions. As researchers, we must approach online communities as a completely different entity from a longitudinal bulletin board or consumer panel. While traditional research methods, both online and in-person, have specific objectives and goals, the online community environment may have several different goals and objectives throughout. The linchpin is engagement. The most desirable aspect of a truly engaged online community is the ability to obtain new insights that you were unaware to even ask about previously. It is through these communities that marketing research and marketing will further begin to blend, and marketing research will begin to produce tangible ROI via community member loyalty and varied shopping habits. These online communities will often become the hub for a brand’s marketing research mix and enhanced micro-communities will begin to evolve, furthering the closing gap between brands and their customers.

Though processes and tools are becoming more and more automated, there will be an increased need for research experts to interpret the data and provide true insights and recommendations. The market researcher of tomorrow will not only need to be aware of the myriad of tools and methods but understand and direct proper use of each.

This is truly an exciting time to be involved in marketing research and it will be an exciting journey observing the changes that take place over the next few years.

PROJECT TEAM
Benjamin Smithee
Managing Partner
Spych Market Analytics, Texas

Tamara Kenworthy, PRC, PCM
President
On Point Strategies, Iowa

Jim Longo
VP/Client Development
Itracks, New York

Susan Saurage-Altenloh, PRC
President
Saurage Research, Inc., Texas

Jewel Seperson
Research Manager
Ipsos ASI, California

It’s not a secret that in the craziness of the current economy many companies are going “broke”.  But, there is a currency in which our beloved industry operates upon that truly comes before money.  That currency is called trust, and recent articles and statistics that have surfaced make me worry about the overall health and liquidity of our nation of researchers.

Jeffrey Henning recently wrote a great and enlightening post titled “Consumers Don’t Want to Hear from Social Media Researchers, Unless…”, where he shared some interesting findings from a recent surveying of people about their desire/lack of desire for researchers to utilize their social media-based opinions for market research.  The results were basically on the side of …no…but the more interesting and disturbing part was the “why” (I know, my quali is showing ..via Jim Longo) behind those findings.  In all seriousness, the most interesting part, or shall I say most disturbing part, was why they were against market researchers utilizing those opinions and comments.

The majority of responses fell into two categories of “Market Researchers will willfully misinterpret their responses” and “Fear of researchers getting it wrong through incompetence”.  Take a deep breath, pull your tongue from the bottom of your throat and bite it for just a minute while you ask yourself….do they have a point?

Say it ain’t so, or question the credibility of the findings, but the fact is that those feelings are present in the population, and there is something that makes people feel that way.  Is it really the representative majority of folks, who knows, but there is a population that exists.  The more important question is are they validated in their concern?  Are they over-reacting?  Why do they feel that way?

If people cannot trust us then what do we have to offer, other than an incentive, to trade them for their time and opinions?  There are implied “conditions of satisfaction” that exist between us, and the folks we speak to in front of the one-way mirror.  Somewhere along the way, our beloved industry has lost some credibility, at least in a small population of people.  Hard to swallow that medicine?  Yeah, it was for me too!  Instead of questioning the credibility of the statements and the size of that population, let’s do the more important thing…figure out how to gain that trust back from everyone!  Because, from other recent things I have seen, it is not just respondents that have voiced these concerns.  I also saw an interesting video of the head of insights for VW, Steve Gatt, speaking on video about our industry not being “up to scratch”.  Do you believe this is true?  If you know me personally, you know that I am a huge advocate for the future of our industry and want nothing but the best for all of our fellow colleagues and clients.  So, I ask you, what do we do to grow and encourage trust with everyone regarding the quality of work our industry represents?  What do we do to position ourselves as the keystone to successful marketing and advertising, the building blocks for new product development and the key player in providing value to our clients?

I’ll start:

1)   Think of the customer/consumer/respondent as your client – go where they are, listen and respond to their needs and then communicate those needs and wants to the companies and brands that are interested in them.

2)   Add your value on top – less journalistic and more strategic consultation is the way of the future.  Do not lose the neutral unbiased edge, but don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and showcase your expertise.

3)   Embrace change – Be smart and approach the future with open arms and open minds.  Remember every angry person is a frightened person who is afraid of some loss.

4)   Embrace technology – Whether you are a research noobie or a veteran of our industry, good research is good research, and technology does not change that.  You are relevant and provide value, just learn the new buttons to push in the new environment and execute the same core principles that market research is founded upon.  (this statement does not suggest online will fully-replace in-person, Twitter is the new focus group,  Facebook is the new market research, or any other outlandish statement of the kind)

5)   Embrace collaboration and possess humility – Collaboration is the key to the future, both for us and the companies and brands that we assist.  Know your strengths, focus on them, and partner up to shore up your weaknesses.  Not EVERYTHING we do is extremely proprietary and secretive.  Remember, as the tide rises, so do all of the boats.

I love the market research industry, and I know many of you who do as well.  It’s a compelling time for change and growth, so who will lead the way?  What would you add to the list?  What would you remove?  How do we fill the reserves of trust equity and build an industry that is greater than ever?  Do I sound like a cheerleader?  That’s ok, because I know I stand in a crowd of others equally as loud.  Insert thoughts below.

Thanks for reading :)

Ben