Tag Archives: social media

Social Intelligence: Not Just for Social Strategy

At FACE, we’re a hybrid group of “qualies” and data analysts who keep an open mind about what it means to be a researcher in 2014 – how research should happen and where the most valuable information comes from. We’re increasingly incorporating social media intelligence in our work, used either as a primary methodology or a layer of context in qualitative studies. However, we’re aware that some of our colleagues and clients are hesitant to consider social research methodologies.

I’ll get this out of the way upfront: social analysis is not the right fit for every research objective. Yet social is often dismissed simply because clients assume that anything social is not in their jurisdiction. That’s what I want to argue against in this blog post – instead, let’s start thinking of how social media can inform every dimension of brand planning.

Here are some familiar examples of the reasoning behind why social gets cut from budgets or even passed over in favor in of much more expensive approaches:

  • “This data may be interesting, but our brand doesn’t tweet, so social media stuff is not for us”
  • “Looks like you have strong social capabilities, but that’s not really relevant to my team; maybe I’ll put you in touch with our PR department.”
  • “We’ve got a dedicated team working on social marketing. They’re not set up for research, exactly, but I can have them pull any reports I need”

It seems there is a not uncommon perception that social data is exclusively for social strategy: analyze social conversation and sharing to become a better social conversationalist and sharer.

I disagree. In fact, the value of social understanding is far more expansive than that. Incorporating social insight is an exercise in lateral thinking that can make research more potent across the spectrum of strategic planning.

Stanley Pollitt's book 'Pollitt on Planning'

Stanley Pollitt, co-credited with starting the ad agency practice of account planning, had an important take on this theme long before digital social networks were in play:

“The account planner is that member of the agency’s team who is the expert, through background, training, experience, and attitudes, at working with information and getting it used – not just marketing research but all the information available to help solve a client’s advertising problems.”

This perspective is relevant beyond advertising problems. Research must be focused, but focus shouldn’t mean “same old” or one-dimensional, whether that’s traditional focus groups or brand trackers. If your strategic goals are ambitious, your research goals – and methodology – should be too. “…all the information available to help solve a client’s problems.

We’re now living in a world where the subjective emotion we share and the measurable data trail we leave behind are both signs of our humanity. So as a researcher you’ve got to love talking face-to-face with a consumer as well as studying how that person comes to life in a spreadsheet.

Social is a unique stream of information and is there, as Pollitt would suggest, “to get used.” Social data is exciting in that it’s vast, readily available, and relatively cost effective to access. Moreover, social conversation is generally unprompted – a chance to throw away the discussion guide and purely listen. What you’ll hear will inform far more than how to write your next tweet.

Beyond social marketing strategy, here are several thought-starters for how to get smart from social insight and use it across your brand or business, not just for social media strategy.

1. Audience Profiling

  • Segment social users talking about a brand  or topic to learn more about existing customers – or discover potential new target audiences
  • Improve recruitment for subsequent research, e.g. build a smarter screener based on fresh insight into demographic and lifestyle parameters

2. Advertising effectiveness measurement

  • Optimize media spend by detecting regions of brand interest before messaging is in-market
  • Track impact of online or offline advertising by region, based on social reaction (either organic reactions or in response to a call to action, such as a promoted hashtag)
  • Gauge performance of local activations, e.g. in-store events or franchise promotions
  • Assess PR activity such as news editorial coverage and native advertising
Pulsar location map - US by state

Pulsar location maps can show where people are talking about your brand, stores or advertising

3. Understand your online sales funnel

  • Measure links shared to Ecommerce properties to understand where consumers are talking about buying your products or competitors and the category at large
Pulsar most shared Media visualisation  by domain

Pulsar’s Media visualisations analyse the links being shared within a topic of discussion

4. Design Inspiration for products & services

  • Identify consumer-generated content and use it as stimulus for brainstorming for new product development, creative production, packaging design and more
  • Gather unmoderated feedback on a purchase journey or product experience to inform future UX design

Social media allows real-time customer journey feedback

These four options are just a start: there are many other ways to get more creative and more analytical with social data. Studying social conversation provides a window in to consumer mindset and behavior, not just a view of popular chatter. It’s helpful to think about social media by breaking it down to its basics: networks of people sharing opinions, speculating about the future, and reviewing experiences. In that lies true insight for business problems, so there’s no use in being anti-social!

For more ideas for leveraging social data, see Fran D’Orazio’s Future of Social Media research blog post.

Marc Geffen is based in our US office. If you want to discuss how he can help your business in the New Year then send him an email: marc.geffen@facegroup.com

 

We’re in a book! 2 FACE essays included in new social media “book of blogs”

First you read them here, now get them on your Kindle! Two essays from the FACE social team have been included in a new book collecting together smart thinking on how to do social media research from across the commercial and academic worlds.

On 29 October, the blog NSMNSS (New Social Media, New Social Science) published a “book of blogs” called ‘Social Media in Social Research: Blogs on Blurring the Boundaries’.

This is a collection of over 50 blogs written by researchers from around the world, covering “a researcher’s journey from scoping phases to dissemination, demonstrating how new forms of data produced by social media can be integrated into a researcher’s toolkit.”

Social Media in Social Research

Two FACE essays are included:

  1. Francesco D’Orazio’s The Future of Social Media Research, first published in Research World magazine. In this post, Fran outlines the 10 ways to tackle the challenges facing the research industry’s use of social media monitoring.
  1. Jess Owens’s ‘10 Tactics For Rigour in Social Media Market Research’ outlining how you can ensure the insights from your research project are robust.

 

Research World Magazine

NSMNSS (New Social Media, New Social Science) is a blog that brings together academics, researchers and social scientists to discuss whether social science researchers should embrace social media, and what the implications would be if these methods and practices were used. The blog is jointly owned by NatCen Social Research (Britain’s leading independent social research institute) and SAGE, the research methods publishers.

In the social media research field we’re constantly trying to find new ways of getting insight, solving problems – and working out how to do this accurately, ethically and efficiently. We think it’s really valuable for NSMNSS to be supporting this dialogue between commercial and academic researchers who often have very different priorities. There’s a lot we in market research can learn from academic discussions of what can be legitimately deduced from a given method versus what’s just speculation or error. And we hope our focus on actionability might inspire some students to think more widely about how they might connect their research through into real-world applications.

Despite these differences, both sides are united by a keen interest in what’s next when it comes to making sense of social data. Pulsar has partnered with researchers at the University of Sheffield and 3 other universities to explore new techniques and technologies in visual social media and image analysis, and we’ll be reporting back from the first conference this Friday.

So here’s to blurring the boundaries between research worlds! It’s a fascinating and exciting place to be working.

Interested in Social Media In Social Research? Head over to Amazon to learn more and download the Kindle eBook.

Or find out more about how media research can help you by emailing us on
info@facegroup.com

Watch our webinar: How Social Media Predicts Ticket Sales

Thanks to everyone who joined me last Thursday for my webinar on How Social Media Predicts Concert Ticket Sales. With over 50 attendees we had a great global audience and some really good questions at the end – I had to think on my feet! Feedback’s been really positive, so thank you all for attending.

If you missed it, no need to miss out – the full webinar can be downloaded here with slides and audio for the full experience. The webinar runs for 30 minutes, with an additional 5 minutes for questions.

Alternatively here’s our presentation ready to read:

If you liked that…

...Why not check out some of our other research studies, such as How Stuff Spreads, my webinar with Francesco D’Orazio on viral videos Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake – or some big thinking on The Future of Social Media Research.

…Or if you’d like to get in touch to talk about how the learnings might apply to your own business, or explore doing a similar study yourself, just send me an email at Jessica@Facegroup.com.

…If you’d like to learn more about our social data research platform Pulsar that powered this project, head on over to PulsarPlatform.com or email Info@Pulsarplatform.com and our team will get back to you right away.

Does social media drive sales? A research review

As social media research matures, the big question on everyone’s lips is “How can we connect this to other data?” More particularly, how can we connect it to what really matters to our business: sales?

Last week I gave a webinar on exactly this topic, sharing the results of our research study mapping social media buzz for 3 music events against ticket sales. You can find that presentation here on Slideshare, and download the full recording from this link.

In this blog, I want to put our work in context and map the wider industry thinking on this issue by summarising 5 other key social-to-sales research studies. There are a number of different ways that social media activity and sales can be compared, and I hope it’s useful to provide a summary and outline some of the key differences:

1. Buzzkill: Coca-Cola Finds No Sales Lift from Online Chatter
March 2013

Presenting at the Advertising Research Foundation’s Re:Think 2013 conference, Coke’s Eric Schmidt reported that “We didn’t see any statistically significant relationship between our buzz and our short-term sales.” (AdAge.com)

Note that Coke are still big believers in social media’s effectiveness as part of an integrated campaign: said Wendy Clark, “It’s the combination of owned, earned, shared and paid media connections – with social playing a crucial role at the heart of our activations – that creates marketplace impact, consumer engagement, brand love and brand value.”

IEDGE-cocacola-social-media-strategy-2

[image created by Coca Cola, via iEdge.eu]

But this study is evidence that overall social media buzz – the number of brand mentions – doesn’t necessarily correlate with sales. What might?

2. McKinsey Finds Social Buzz Can Affect Sales — Negatively, Anyway
June 2013

“The consulting firm initially couldn’t find any connection between social-media buzz and sales, either when looking at overall data changes or even by applying an algorithm to assign sentiment to the buzz. But McKinsey found the relationship between negative buzz and a decline in sales when it “hand tabulated” sentiment in social-media comments.” (AdAge.com)

This negative sentiment hurt signups by 8%, “offsetting their entire TV spend,” McKinsey principal Jonathan Gordan said at the Advertising Research Foundations Audience Measurement 8.0 conference in New York. Why? Because the negativity was primarily driven by complaints about the sign-up process and call-centre workers at the telecom provider. 

This shows how a relationship between social and sales can become visible when you drill down into more specific aspects of social data. Brand volumes didn’t impact telecoms sign-ups - but complaints about the sign-up process did.

3. Eventbrite: Facebook Drives More Ticket Sales Than Twitter And LinkedIn Across US And UK
April 2012

A different metric here – not social media volumes (aka the number of messages mentioning a brand), but the number of shares:

“The company says that Facebook is the king of all social networks when it comes to ticket sales. In the UK, if a person shares an event on Facebook, it generates an average of £2.25 ($3.60) in additional gross ticket sales. A share on Twitter, meanwhile, drives an average of £1.80 ($2.90), and an event shared on LinkedIn generates an average of £1.24 ($1.99) in additional event revenue.” (TechCrunch.com)

Eventbrite’s reason for why Facebook is bringing in more sales is good sense: “The connections we have on Facebook most closely represent the people we actually know and spend time with offline,” its researchers write.

Eventbrite facebook

4. Why Twitter Buzz ≠ Movie Ticket Sales
December 2012

“140 Proof looked at 25 major Hollywood films released in 2012, compiling data on each movie’s social media activity (mentions and hashtags) two weeks before, and two weeks after the release. It found that the number of overall Twitter mentions is a poor predictor of box office sales (unlike tweet volume and TV ratings). What did correlate to box office success was the number of tweets from influential tastemakers” (Readwrite.com)

Again, the relationship between social and sales doesn’t show up when you just look at raw volumes – but it is still there. Pulsar’s range of influencer metrics such as visibility and Klout filters can enable deeper analysis of how influence relates to sales, going beyond “number of tweets from tastemakers” to understanding how influence levels and sales-power scales.

5. Vision Critical: “From Social To Sale”

A totally different methodology – they’re not mapping activity in social media, or measuring clickthroughs from social channels, but rather surveying 5,657 people asking them to report whether they’d ever bought anything they’d seen on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.

This is worth doing because, “68% of Facebook users  are “lurkers” who post only rarely, so the influence of  social on their purchasing will not be visible from social  media analytics alone.” It’s a good reminder to think about social media users as much as an audience as content-creators - and that the path to purchase is more complex than old-fashioned sales funnel models, or simple ‘last-click’ attribution.

social-media-selling-for-un-sexy-brands

[image via Digital Information World]

Five studies, two key take-aways for understanding how social and sales connect:

1. Think about your user journey. How do people make a decision to buy your product – who or what might influence them? How  do people consume your product – is it particularly social, like something you would want to do with friends, or something worth boasting and sharing on Twitter and Facebook? Is it something people can purchase quickly online, or a more considered purchase?

2. Think about what aspect of social media to measure. It may not be simple volumes of brand messages that correlate with sales, but something more specific – such as influence, sentiment, or specific topics. Or perhaps it’s not messages at all but behaviours such as sharing. Most of all, remember to measure all of social media, not just owned channel activity: you’re looking for consumer behaviour, not just reactions to your own!

As these studies from a diverse range of brands show, social media does often connect to sales – not all of the time, but often with some statistical smarts & a deep knowledge of social, a link can be found.

Note that we’re saying “connect”, not “cause” - correlation can be assessed using relatively simple stats such as R-squared tests, but unpicking causation (Was it social media activity that made someone buy, or a price promotion, or TV advertising?) is a challenge for regression analysis and a bigger topic than we can discuss here.

And sometimes the relationship between social and sales can go both ways – not only “I buy a concert ticket because I saw the news on Twitter”, but also “I bought a concert ticket for my favourite band and I’m so excited, I want to tell everybody!” Perhaps brands can even hope for a virtuous circle of social driving sales, which drives further social activity, which drives even more sales… Fingers crossed!

Found this interesting? Read our social to sales study: get the presentation here on Slideshare, or download the webinar recording from this link. Thanks!

Webinar: How Social Media Predicts Concert Ticket Sales

The real business value of social media lies in integrating social media data with other company datasets, such as sales and web analytics. Ever wanted to know more about how social media activity connects to purchase? How to measure social data and ROI?  Which demographics give brands the best chance of social  influencing sales?

Jess Owens, social media researcher

Join our Social Insight Manager Jess Owens for our webinar entitled ‘How Social Media Predicts Concert Ticket Sales’ on Thursday 25 September.

Our recent research study explored how well social media works as a key driver in awareness of a concert and whether it provides a way and a measure to predict ticket sales. We used our in-house social data intelligence platform Pulsar to analyse the whole online ecosystem, and tracked discussions around three concerts: a festival, UK tour of a global female pop artist, and a 1970’s rock band.

Join us for ‘How Social Media Predicts Concert Ticket Sales’ to have all these questions answered and more.

The webinar will air on Thursday 25 September at:

  • 3pm BST (London)
  • 4pm CET (Paris/Berlin)
  • 10 am EDT (New York)

This webinar is free to attend – just register here for details.

We hope you can join us for this very exciting online conversation.