Insight
Opinion

Vox Pop: When should social intelligence and digital consumer intelligence be used in comparison to other research methods?

We asked some senior industry players to tell us when they believe social intelligence and digital consumer intelligence (DCI) should be used in comparison to other research methods. Here is a selection of the best responses…
 

Tara Beard-Knowland, Ipsos

There are a couple of factors to consider when making this decision.

First is the type of business question you have. Some will generate more digital data than others. So if you’ve got a very specific question about a product that people don’t talk about online, then DCI is probably not the answer. However, there are a lot of things that people do talk about and search for online – so, if you’ve got good volume, then we move on to other considerations.

Next you need to consider the importance of accuracy vs. speed. As a general rule, DCI is speedier than many more traditional methods (although not all of them, if you want quick survey results for a question or two). But, because it is not fully representative, it isn’t going to provide the same level of accuracy as a nationally representative sample. So, on its own, we wouldn’t recommend using DCI for something like opinion polling or forecasting just the success rate of the new product you’re betting the bank on.  But in cases like those, it can add more colour and explanation of what’s happening.

DCI is great for exploration, understanding the polarity of views, unpicking consumer language, getting historical views and providing broader context. Because it’s unprompted, you can get more of a sense of what people really think.

 

Javier Burón, Audiense

Where DCI can add value in almost any shape of consumer research. I’d like to highlight the following 3 use cases where DCI fills holes that traditional research methods are not capable of:

Understand communities that drive conversations, influence and culture: Today, more than ever, our culture is in constant evolution. Led by technology, this constant change creates, challenges and destroys brands and industries. With this, new communities and tribes thrive leading the change. Understanding these communities and how they are interconnected is a key aspect of understanding consumers today.

Understand affinities towards influencers, brands and other organizations: In a post cookie world, a deep understanding of relevant consumers segments affinities is only possible thanks to Social Data and more specific Twitter Data. The ability, not only to index thousand of these affinities but also to compare it with customs baselines makes this an impossible task for traditional consumer research methods.

Understand how consumers express themselves: Forrester’s Rusty Warner predicts that Content will challenge the crown position of Data management and Analytics, when it comes to brand priorities. Understanding how different segments of your audience and consumers express about your product and topics is something that DCI can deliver at scale (see images below). Beyond replacing, these analyses could make investments in focus groups much more strategic:

Jeremy Hollow, Listen and Learn Research

I think “why” is a better place to start this than “when”.

Let’s start with the fundamentals.
Traditional research follows a stimulus-response model. A researcher asks a question (in a focus group, survey, community etc.) and people respond, often in a structured, predetermined way (e.g. by selecting an answer from what’s offered).

This asks people to think, consider, deliberate and respond, according to our agenda.

Maybe a little bit controlling?

Social and digital data, on the other hand, is observational. No researchers were present during the creation of this data. This means it’s a more natural reflection of what’s front of mind, what people choose to talk about and share. It’s their experiences, expressed in their words, in the place of their choosing.

Neither’s perfect. What is?

Why use social and digital data for research? Here are a few of the most important:

  • ● When you want to make sure your internal and organisational bias hasn’t created blind spots in how you understand people.
  • ● When you don’t know what to ask e.g. when you want to explore new aspects of human behaviour (like emerging trends in green fashion).
  • ● When you want to discover new audiences or behaviours.
  • ● When you want to understand hard to reach audiences.
  • ● When you want to test your unknown, unknowns.
  • ● When you need to understand consumer’s language, how they make sense and communicate.
  • ● When you want to see what is (social) and then develop what could be (traditional MR).

 

Ben Ellis, Brandwatch

DCI brings an endless list of benefits to brands and researchers, making it the go-to option for two key scenarios:

When speed is crucial: social media has been a catalyst in how consumers and brands interact. Crises now happen in minutes, not days, and brands need to act fast. A combination of Qriously with unprompted data from Brandwatch Consumer Research takes that into account, and takes considerably less than a traditional panel.

When reach is crucial: DCI unlocks the power of easily scalable panels, with the added benefit of no geographical barriers. So, you can combine prompted and unprompted data to fully map customer journeys and attitudes, regardless of where consumers are located. With DCI, the world is your panel.

The way consumers speak, consume and behave has changed markedly over the years. Traditional and fragmented research methods may be useful to keep up with trends, but when speed, reach, and innovation are crucial, the key isn’t in keeping up – the key is in staying ahead of the curve, to learn, adapt, or disrupt. Researchers can use DCI to do just that – to innovate as fast as it takes a trend to shape consumer behaviour.


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Jillian Ney
Jillian Ney
Dr Jillian is the founder of The Social Intelligence Lab. She has worked in the social intelligence industry for over a decade as researcher, consultant, spokesperson and author. She's on a mission to bring the industry together and give social intelligence the place it deserves as a recognised and supported discipline. Ask her about digital behavioural science, purchasing decisions and why Scotland is the best place on earth. More content by

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