Can Social Listening Ever Be a Self-Service Research Method? [Pick Up Your Copy of The Social Analysts Playbook]

There’s no two ways about it, social listening or, social intelligence, if you like, has lowered the barrier for entry into research.  

Anyone with a social listening tool (or the motivation to manually analyse social data) has the ability to generate consumer insights quickly.  That’s a good thing, right?

Not necessarily. We have found that increasingly often that many people trying to generate consumer insight are not adequately skilled in the field and have therefore become too reliant on technology to provide the answer.

And we all know that social listening tools don’t provide insight – humans do.  

This means that there are always a lot of questions about whether the input into social listening is worth the output – can the false starts, the tears, sighs and hair pulling (maybe that’s just me) create unique insights that add value to the business?

I’d say yes.  

Yes, when you have the right approach.  My friends down at Brandwatch feel the same way.  In their new report, The Social Analyst Playbook, they explore how to set up social research initiatives for success.  

Inside you’ll find expert advice from Ben Donkor, Director of Research and Insights at We Are Social, Bex Carson, VP of Social Insights Products at Brandwatch, and me.  

Want a sneaky peek before you download?  

Great.  Read on.  


The People Tools and Framework to Succeed

Would you give an apprentice plumber a brand-new house to plumb by themselves?  

Of course, you wouldn’t.  That would be crazy.

So why would you give a novice analyst or researcher the responsibility of analysing social data?  

I’d take a guess that because there is a tool to do the heavy lifting for them and because they have some kind of understanding about social media they seem fit for the job.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the best recipe for success.   

Hear what Ben has to say about the two approaches businesses can use to hire a social data analyst.


In the full report, you’ll also hear from Ben on how to choose the right tool and his framework for getting the most out of your analyst and your tools.


Keeping Research Methods Sound at the Speed of Business

Bex, VP of Social Insights Products at Brandwatch, explains that marketing research has always been evolving and changing with the times.  

Today, this means that analytics are becoming more readily available, even “self-service”.  But that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that social data analysis can be a little tricky – from selecting the right data source, formulating a question you can answer, and knowing how to segment and analyse the data.

Sometimes, it can feel like a minefield. You can rest assured that even the most seasoned social data analyst can find some projects more difficult than others.

The biggest hurdle that I see: trusting in the data.  People are keen to trust the data, sometimes without question.

Social data is messy and it’s full of sarcasm, bots and misinformation.  You can’t just click a button for insight.  

Hell, if the tools worked like this we wouldn’t have a job and you wouldn’t be reading this.

Bex agrees…

“Blind trust in inaccurate data will lead to more bad decisions.  If we’re liberating insights creation from the insights professionals, we could end up making a lot of bad decisions”.

It seems like social media research shouldn’t be liberated from insights professionals. I have to say that I’d always argue that you need a professional proficient in insights when working on social media research projects.  

But, if you don’t have the resource to invest in social data professionals, don’t panic!


Social Analysis in Action

Over the last 10 years I have been working on developing a methodology to help anyone get the most out of social data.

“The most important thing is to have a distinct process that you can follow so that you can make your process repeatable and scalable”.

And, that is exactly what I created.

The process helps you to become more logical, detailed and cognisant of external factors.  

In the nine-step methodology you will find yourself learning how to define the question you want to answer, understand how people talk, learn how to segment your data and properly deconstruct your business question, to finally analysing and, most importantly, interpreting the data.

In The Social Analyst Playbook, I take you through a webinar outlining the full process.  You can also download my interactive How to Analyse Social Data Workbook by creating a free The SI Lab account HERE.


Can Social Listening Become Self-Service?

So, can social listening ever become self-service?  I’d say that you still need to be conscious of the type of person running your insight.  This person needs to have:

Knowledge of the nuances of social data and how to overcome not being able to ask direct questions.  Patience to do the upfront work. He/she can’t just jump straight into the analysis.

  • The ability to interpret the data and relate the insight back to the question to answer and business use case.

If you’re serious about your social media research programmes you need to invest in the right people. 

If you simply don’t have the resource and need to upskill your current team, download The Social Analyst Playbook and create a The SI Lab account to get exclusive content on social data analysis and interpretation.


Photo Source: Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash

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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