A Day in the Life Of…. Ellie Osborne, Social Intelligence Research Director at Join the Dots

Recently, we sat down with Ellie Osborne the Director of Social Intelligence at research agency Join the Dots.  Ellie shared more about her emerging social intelligence role and her opinions on the industry. 

Hi Ellie, can you please describe your role – what do you do?

I head up the social intelligence team within the market research agency Join the Dots.

Whereabouts do you sit in the organisation?  Has this always been where your team sits? Who do you report to?

We are a new team! I’ve worked in market research for 16 years, more recently (in the last 3 years) I have specialised in the use of social data for market research – integrating social intelligence with other, more traditional, market research approaches. I report into the Chief Client Officer.


What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

There’s two groups of skill sets you need.  The first is organisational and project management skills. We often have multiple projects running at the same time, often with tight delivery deadlines, so you need to keep on top of what’s happening with the different projects (whilst liaising and updating clients).

The second skill set is being able to think strategically, seeing the bigger picture. Data is great but if it’s to make a difference we have to consider what it means for the client, this is where research becomes insights that have business impact.


What do you use social data for? What’s the business use cases?

Social data can be really versatile and we use it for a range of different market research project types including understanding and build consumer journeys, market mapping, competitor intelligence, customer experience and campaign monitoring and evaluation.  The objectives of the project will determine the approach we take with the data and analysis.


What are the most useful social metrics or data points?

For me personally, it is the raw verbatims (comments).  I’ve always leaned more towards qualitative research, with social data it’s like having access to a mass of qualitative transcripts. You capture the natural, spontaneous conversations consumers are having, conversations not limited to a discussion guide. However, it is unstructured data (masses of it) which can be challenging.


What are your favourite tools to get the job done?

We use an inductive analysis approach to allow us to make sense of, and structure, the social data we collect (we will often work with the raw data collected via our social listening provider Pulsar) – getting this process in place has allowed us to really delve deeper into the data and understand it further than keyword volumes.

Tell us about your typical working day…

Being a working parent the day does normally starts with getting the kids shipped off to school! Once peace prevails (I work from home most of the time), it’s a real mix.  I will often spend time working on research reports for clients, but there will also be time spent on pitches, developing our thinking as well as the less glamourous day-to-day tasks involving budget tracking and clearing out my inbox!


Which companies are leading the way with social intelligence? Vendors, Agencies or Brands?

  • Well, it goes without saying…. I think we are at Join the Dots!  In all seriousness, I do think we are doing things a little differently.
  • When I talk to some people using social data they seem to become quickly disillusioned with it but that’s mostly when they are relying on the metrics delivered by the social listening platforms – social data has so much more to offer! There are rich insights to be gained by delving deeper and analysing the raw data going beyond the automated dashboards.
  • Even better, as we are a research agency which embraces multiple methodologies, I can integrate social intelligence with other data streams such as passive metering and direct asking (be through surveys or qualitatively), fusing these data streams can provide you with a more complete picture.

What one thing do you wish you had just now to make your job easier?

  • As I mentioned earlier, we have developed a way of structuring and processing the raw data which we feel allows us to more effectively raw insights from it. However, at present much of this is manual.  Our priority for 2019 is determining where and how we can implement AI to remove some of the manual time involved, we’re not quite there yet but we’re hoping by the end of 2019 there will be something in place.


How did you land your role, and where might you go from here?

  • I initially ‘fell’ into market research, in all honesty, I was a skint third year student at uni who saw a part-time research role at what was the Learning and Skills Council (when they existed).  I was actually doing an English and Media degree at the time but had to do a business faculty module (which happened to be market research) so at least I knew the difference between qualitative and quantitative research.
  • It was a similar story with social intelligence, it wasn’t a planned move – it came about after some conference inspiration and a conversation in the post-conference bar. However, since focusing on social intelligence I’ve not looked back and the next steps for me are growing and developing the offer further at Join the Dots.


What books or articles are you currently reading?

I’ve just had two new books delivered, one off the back of Dr Jillian Ney’s recent essential reading post (Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter) and the second is Everybody Lies: What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are which I also came

Do you have any advice for the people who want to do a similar role to yourself?

I think market researchers specialising in using social data are fairly rare at the moment, but those of us I do come across typically have worked with the ‘traditional’ methodologies prior to social data and are therefore very often well-rounded researchers.

In my experience having a knowledge of the more ‘traditional’ research methodologies can be a real benefit when working with social data. I think the established processes associated with the collection and analysis of data via traditional research methodologies can be transferred to social data, at Join the Dots we’ve found this has helped us deliver reliable insights from this data source.

Connect with Ellie on LinkedIn or in The SI Lab community forum.

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Jillian Ney
Jillian Ney
I'm the founder of The Social Intelligence Lab. I champion the growth of the social intelligence industry by helping the professionals and businesses working in it to access best practice, accredited training and peer networking. After working in the industry for 12 years I believe social intelligence should become a recognised discipline - and, I'm working towards making that a reality. More content by

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