Last week Brandwatch announced the acquisition of Qriously, a market research SaaS company. After the slew of mergers and acquisitions in the social intelligence industry in 2018, particularly Ipsos’s acquisition of Synthesio, this move by Brandwatch further pushes social intelligence into the field of market research.
Way back in 2005 I became interested in online communities and ‘tribal consumers’. Little did I know that my love affair with how these communities interacted with each other and the value they digitally exchanged would shape the rest of my career.
After studying communities as part of my degree, the next logical step for me was to analyse the growing pool of social data. However, it seemed that not everyone shared my view that social data analysis was the future of market research.
Yes, the various vendor touted ‘social media is the largest focus group in the world’ and there was a rapid uptake of social analysis technologies for marketing purposes, but the market research industry had remained somewhat sceptical.
Much of that scepticism still exists today.
Many people continue to find it difficult to extract business value from social data. And, for market researchers, there are still questions over respondent samples, validity, and replicability of research.
Why Social Intelligence in Research?
You could easily argue that the social intelligence industry has failed to demonstrate where the value lies and identify the measurable use cases. For researchers, there has also been the argument that the insight generated from social data could be more easily gathered by other research methods.
I see the industry trying to tackle some of this criticism. Linkfluence recently openly proclaimed their solution based approach. There’s been a slew of other mergers and acquisitions to fill in functionality holes and increase efficiencies. And, now, there’s Brandwatch’s acquisition of Qriously.
Not to mention, the work that I know is happening behind the scenes across the industry. Not all of this work is in relation to research and insights specifically but there is a need for social intelligence and research to become better bedfellows.
Market Saturation and New Growth Opportunities
When The Forrester Wave™: Social Listening Platforms Q3 2018 report was released, there was shock about Sprinklr being named Leader. This is particularly evident if you were from a market research background. I had many discussions questioning if the listening functionality of Sprinklr was strong enough for a market researcher’s interrogation.
For me, it wasn’t really the results of The Forrester Wave™ that was interesting. There were bigger indications that change was needed for the industry, particularly the sign that the growth of the market leaders Brandwatch and Crimson Hexagon was stagnating. Later there would be a merger between the two players but what I took from that report is that social intelligence was at the point of saturation in the marketing discipline.
Ultimately, the future of the social intelligence industry is directly linked to extending reach into new disciplines. What I see happening now is a split of vendors who will remain in the marketing and PR focus for their solutions, and the ones who will seek to enter new markets.
The Forrester report was an indication that we can no longer just ‘lump’ all the different vendors and solutions into a ‘social listening technology’ category. The market is changing and maturing, and there’s likely to be more merger and acquisition activity over the course of 2019. So, it only makes sense that the classification of the industry needs to mature along with it [watch this space for updates].
The acquisition of Qriously signals Brandwatch’s intent to make this a reality, and it appears that market research is the next growth discipline for social intelligence. While there have always been research and insights professionals (like me) using social data for market research, there is still some scepticism over social intelligence practices by the general market research industry. However, the Qriously acquisition helps to answer one social insight criticism – that we need to integrate other data sources to social data.
The Need to Integrate Other Data Sources
Over the course of the last year, there has been more of an acknowledgement that social intelligence should be integrated into other research and data sources to generate the most powerful insights. This assertion helps to satisfy the research community that social data plays a complementary role in research rather than replacing tried and trusted research methods.
The Qriously acquisition provides Brandwatch with some much-needed differentiation from the mass of other social listening tools while adding additional data sources for researchers [and marketers]. Qriously cofounder and CEO, Christopher Kahler believes:
“the future of market research is 100 per cent combining different data types…. Prompted survey and unprompted social data surface different types of insights and looking at them together gives you a 360-degree picture”.
The data that Qriously provides is real-time survey functionality. This is interesting as it could be argued that social intelligence is more closely aligned to the skills of qualitative rather than quantitative researchers. Meaning that those who already use Brandwatch may not immediately benefit from the new functionality without first pulling in those with a quantitative skill set.
There are also questions around whether those from the quantitative background will adapt to using a social intelligence suite. However, a source at Brandwatch commented that:
“we’re aware that traditional market researchers are sceptical, but with most major players in the industry being founded in the 70s or earlier, we think we can provide a breath of fresh air and innovation into the industry”.
Whatever happens, the acquisition of Qriously marks the next stage in the development of the social intelligence industry. I’m certainly still championing the further development of social intelligence in market research, and the community here at The Social Intelligence Lab is always ready to help members find a way to overcome their challenges.
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