Has Social Media Research Shown Market Researchers a Different Recession in Our Industry?

Posted: August 3, 2010 by Ben Smithee in Market Research, Research Evolved, SMR, Social Media
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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 🙂


  1. ANNMARIA says:

    Most of my research is program evaluation but two points apply here:

    1. Protect confidentiality

    Recently, we discussed this with a new client. I emphasized that the data we gather WILL be confidential. That means even the person paying us and signing the contract won’t get to see it. Personally identifying information will be maintained in a separate computer off line in another state from the survey information. When they want to do follow-up data, they will send us the id numbers, we will merge those and send out reminders, follow-up surveys, etc.

    We emphasized to the client that if people taking the surveys are told up front the data will be anonymous that under absolutely no circumstances whatever will the client or anyone else ever get that data.

    • spych says:

      @AnnMaria – I definitely agree! Both of those are extremely important factors in maintaining the trust between our industry, companies and consumer/people!

  2. […] Starting us off, Spych Market Analytics asks the question Has Social Media Research Shown Market Researchers a Different Recession in Our Industry?. This a great exploration about the impact of the loss of credibility of MR among both consumers and some business decision makers, and also a series of proposed solutions to address this issue. …So, I ask you, what do we do to grow and encourage trust with everyone regarding the quality … […]

  3. Dave Kreimer says:

    Ben – Your “caring” comes through loud and clear in your very interesting post.

    I think that communicating caring is a critical component of building trust and conducting good qualitative research.

    I explain myself in more detail in this post: http://wp.me/sIBt9-caring.

    I hope the ideas in the article help to enhance this conversation and to raise awareness about the essence of what we as qualitative practitioners do.

    • Ben Smithee says:

      Thanks Dave!

      I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and leave a comment!
      Definitely agree with you in that communicating a sense of caring is a critical component!!
      That’s not even just specific to research. I think that is a key component of life in general!

      Thanks again!

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