Sep 112014
 

Guest Post by Betty Adamou of Research Through Gaming, who was a keynote speaker at this year’s AMSRS Conference in Melbourne.


Let’s face it, Market Research conferences aren’t a place we normally associate with a few laughs (from the stage, it’s different off stage!), but not only did the AMSRS provide delegates with two comedians (one of which was a Market Researcher) but we also had presenters using humour to make some valid points.

These giggle-inducing moments were in the opening talks; Tom Ewing of BrainJuicer keynoted about Reasons to be Cheerful with his ever-present-on-Twitter co-presenter buddy ‘Old Man CrossTabs’ (@OldSchoolMRX on Twitter, if you’re interested in following) who would chime in every now and then during Toms talk with some words of wisdom, but was used to provide a stark contrast between the expectations of ‘Old MR’ (personified by Old Man CrossTabs) and ‘New MR’, brought to life through BrainJuicer case-studies and examples.

The next talk included a flying lettuce through the slides, meant to highlight to power of subliminal messaging and subconscious decisions. Interestingly, the presentation which included a flying lettuce in Leigh Caldwell’s talk didn’t make me want to choose lettuce for lunch, but did act as a trigger so that when I saw lettuce, I thought of Leigh’s talk, and subsequently, the Irrational Agency (where Leigh is a partner).

One of the stand-out presentations for me was by Daniel Bluzer-Fry presenting a case-study carried out with Betfair using mobile and, for the first time, focussed on user experience. However, this wasn’t testing the respondents’ experience of the mobile research methodology, no, it was to improve the experience users had of the BetFair mobile site, however the logic behind user centred design resonates strongly with why design is so important in research applications, be it online surveys, mobile surveys or online communities. During the panel discussion, I referenced this talk as a highlight and why savvy design-thinking for surveys is so important.

Conference talks aside, we were all absolutely spoiled in a perfectly paced conference program; as a delegate, I had enough time to hear the details I needed to calm my curiosity in all talks, without feeling rushed about.

And I know all conference committees care about their conference program and speakers, but the AMSRS had clearly placed a huge amount of effort into ensuring that varied, relevant, innovative and robust talks where chosen for presentation over the two days.

The other highlights I had were not actually talks; I enjoyed hearing about the Better Surveys Project spoken about by Peter Harris from Vision Critical. The project is a three-year study which aims to publicise a series of experiments to evidence the need of particular best practices to educate the industry on better survey design and execution. It is fantastic to see this kind of initiative in our industry and well done to all involved in that project!

The other non-talk highlight was a tribute to a researcher who had sadly passed away; John Young from Colmar Brunton. I know this may sound terribly morbid of me to add this as a highlight, but please hear me out: we so often hear about innovative methodologies, great case-studies and new technology which helps us help clients do things better, cheaper and faster, but this tribute reminded us that at the heart of all these developments and great work are researchers with passion, spirit and who genuinely care about other people, and their jobs as market researchers. It really brought the humanness of what we all do back home for me.

Another highlight was the award ceremony, presented by the researcher-turned-comedian, Sam McCool and a huge congratulations goes out to all the winners.

As a regular conference speaker, I always hope to hear and see great things on the stage and off the stage; AMSRS didn’t disappoint and I would definitely go back, even as a non-speaker. Thanks AMSRS for a fab event!


 

Sep 052014
 

It’s that exciting time of the year again – ESOMAR Congress is on its way and the team at ESOMAR HQ are hard at work making sure the 67th annual ESOMAR Congress will once again provide the very best in content and business opportunities.

As ESOMAR President, for me Congress is a highlight, not only because of the opportunity to meet and greet researchers and clients from all over the globe. Congress is the highpoint of our industry’s event calendar and offers the perfect platform for bringing the ESOMAR community together by holding the Annual Global Meeting (AGM). During the AGM, we report on the successes of the organisation, hear feedback from our members, and vote on any important changes to the Society.

This will be my last AGM as ESOMAR President. And even though it is tinged with sadness in that respect, I am looking forward to communicating the great advances ESOMAR has made throughout the year.

And here are some of the biggest updates… ESOMAR Corporate membership continues to grow steadily, and while I am writing this post we have 282 organisations that have joined the ESOMAR community. It has been a great pleasure to welcome companies such as GfK, Tetra Pak, Hall & Partners, Kadence International, Electrolux, Confirmit, and of course many more, into the fold of Corporate Membership. Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we, as a profession, can be represented as a single united voice to legislators and lawmakers around the world. Corporate Membership is a key element in ensuring the industry can carry on self-regulating, always pushing to do the very best work with a strong commitment to ethical practice.

The ESOMAR Foundation also continues its successful journey. For those unaware, the ESOMAR Foundation was set up in October last year with the aim of channelling the strength and resources of the market research industry towards social good. Its projects aim at helping local charities and supporting researchers in need, local education initiatives, and research for the non-profit sector. In its first 12 months, the Foundation has provided over €60,000 to local charities. This year we have also launched a training programme in Myanmar to help deal with the lack of training opportunities in the county. I urge you to find out more about this wonderful initiative and how you can help by visiting the ESOMAR Foundation site.

ESOMAR and our fellow market research associations all have similar mandates, despite sometimes wording them differently. We all strive for promoting and supporting the industry, determined for it to be as strong as it can be. That’s why for ESOMAR it is incredibly important to reinforce and maintain strong relationships with associations across the globe. In the past 12 months, we have had the opportunity to present global updates at local association meetings in Australia, Japan and Korea, sponsor events in Thailand and Singapore, and hold joint events in Bulgaria, Belgium, Spain and Finland.

Working closely with local associations helps us better understand the needs of researchers in those regions. Combined with a greater use of live streaming ESOMAR events, we are now also able to share knowledge and important industry discussions to more professionals than ever before, regardless of location and circumstance.

Last but not least, one of the most important aspects of this year’s AGM will be the announcement of nominations for the ESOMAR Council and Presidential elections. Serving as President for an organisation with such rich heritage has been an honour. My fellow council members and I have been give an unique opportunity to assist the association in its good work, and influence the future of our industry by shaping the strategic direction of the Society. My term has also provided me with an insight into the breadth, depth and range of the activities ESOMAR conducts daily and the opportunity to contribute to business, philosophical and social debates both inside and outside the industry. So although my term is ending, I am looking forward to continuing the work and supporting the new President as the ex-officio Council member.

And so, the old guard must make way for new blood. I hope I’ll see some of the younger generation of researchers and research clients apply for nomination this year. In my travels over the last two years I’ve been staggered and delighted at the passion and integrity of the younger generation of this profession. Having a representative and diverse ESOMAR Council can only be an asset to the industry.

If you decided that running for Council wasn’t for you, then please don’t forget to vote In October. ESOMAR is only as strong as the Council and the members that vote for them. So make sure you engage with the nominees, ask them questions, understand what they can do for you and the industry as a whole. Every vote strengthens the organisation and, consequentially, our profession.

If you are at Congress this year, don’t be shy, come say hello to any of us at the Council or any of the ESOMAR team and give us your opinions on ESOMAR, the Congress, or your thoughts in general on the industry. If you are unable to attend, then please also feel free to e-mail me directly at d.foreman@council.esomar.org.


 

Sep 032014
 

Last week I posted an article looking at the decline in survey research, which included some data from ESOMAR and some predictions.

This week, ESOMAR posted the latest Global Market Research Report and it includes some interesting figures on data collection modes. Figures which are broadly in line with my predictions.

The table below is mostly a repeat of the one I included in my previous post. It shows the data from the ESOMAR reports for 2007, 2010, and 2013, along with my forecasts for 2016 and 2019.

In this version, I have added the data from the 2014 ESOMAR Global Market Research report at the bottom.

Surveys 2014
Note, the ESOMAR data refer to the final figures for the previous year, so the 2014 report is based on the completed returns for the whole of 2013.

The decline in research spending on projects where the data was collected via surveys, from 53% in the 2013 report to 48% in 2014, is a very large drop and is even faster than implied by my predictions. The ESOMAR Pricing Study would suggest that some of the drop is due to falling costs for online research and a continued switch to online from face-to-face and CATI. However, the ESOMAR Global Market Research report also highlights the growth of non-survey alternatives.

The change in other quant is broadly in line with my predictions, and the 1% change in qual could be more wobble than message. The climb in Other is, however, large, and larger than my prediction, and is one of the drivers of the fall in survey research as a proportion of the total. The key elements in Other are desk research and secondary analysis and are an indication of the move away from data collection to analysis.

BTW, if you are interested in this topic you might want to read Jeffrey Henning’s riposte, Surveys A Century From Now.


 

Sep 022014
 
Coloured Rhino

One of the most frequent lamentations at market research conferences relates to the boardroom. Market researchers are not well represented in the boardroom and many seem to think this is proof of our weakness as a profession/industry. However, I think this is mistaken, I think that market research should only rarely be involved in boardroom decisions, and indeed that majority of what we do should be tactical not strategic.

Boardrooms are not places where many decisions are taken, and those decisions tend to be about issues such as mergers and acquisitions, accounts related issues, strategic decisions about estate management, strategic decisions about issues such as outsourcing etc.

The management of companies is not, typically, achieved at the boardroom level; it is provided by the managers and the specialists. Market research is at its most powerful when it is integrated into the wider knowledge base and information system of the organisation, and this integration happens best when done by the people working with the information, not externally, and not at a level too senior to understand the complexity.

Similarly, most companies make 1000s of tactical decisions for every strategic decision. If a company is making a large number of strategic decisions, they are not actually strategic, they are more likely to be panic. Market researchers certainly want to be involved in the strategic decisions, we have a lot to add and they tend to be interesting projects. But the bulk of the industry should be focused on the tactical if it is going to grow and be profitable.

If we look at the ESOMAR Global Market Research report we can see that the continuous projects account for the bulk of market research spending by clients, including audits, market measurement, customer satisfaction, brand and advertising tracking, usage data. All of this data is used strategically occasionally, but it is principally used to manage the delivery of services and products – i.e. it is used tactically. Ad hoc research such as product testing and ad testing are, in most cases, tactical. A company makes a strategic decision to launch X new products a year, the NPD, the pre-testing, the testing, the comms testing, the monitoring of sales and advertising are all (mostly) tactical. Of course, we would encourage a company to review its tactical data to gain inputs to its strategic thinking, but that is in addition to using the data tactically.

Am I talking about me or about the industry?
One of the reasons I think the MR industry gets confused about whether its core target should be the boardroom or senior management, and about whether its bread and butter should be strategic or tactical, is down to the opinion leaders in market research. Most of the opinion leaders are more strategic than tactical, they personally do more big picture work, and they do less testing whether the font on the pack should be serif or sans serif.

I worry that too many people who do the big thinking (or who try to do the big thinking) are generalising from their own particular. If the market research industry were to focus on the strategic and the boardroom, to the exclusion of the tactical and the everyday, the market research industry would be much, much smaller, many people would have to lose their jobs, and another business sector would need to do the tactical research that clients need.

The importance of the tactical and practical
The ability of some market researchers to focus on the strategic, to offer consultancy services, rests on the scale of the market research industry and its reputation for measurement, independence, and relative objectivity. The stars in our industry are there because of the field managers, the interviewers, the programmers, the operations staff, the coders, and research executives that facilitate the scale of the MR industry.

Yes, let’s keep developing the consultancy services, let’s keep trying to garner a bigger role in strategic decision making, let’s embrace insight management, but let us also keep developing the tactical, the practical, the everyday. We need a parity of respect for all aspects of the market research profession.


 

Aug 262014
 
No More Surveys

Back in March 2010, I caused quite a stir with a prediction, at the UK’s MRS Conference, when I said that in 20 years we would not be conducting market research surveys. I followed my conference contribution with a more nuanced description of my prediction on my blog.

At the time the fuss was mostly from people rejecting my prediction. More recently there have been people saying the MR industry is too fixated on surveys, and my predictions are thought by some to be too cautious. So, here is my updated view on why I think we won’t be conducting ‘surveys’ in 2034.

What did I say in 2010?
The first thing I did was clarify what I meant by market research surveys:

  • I was talking about questionnaires that lasted ten minutes or more.
  • I excluded large parts of social research; some parts of which I think will continue to use questionnaires.

Why no more surveys?
In essence there are three key reasons that I think surveys will disappear

  1. The decline in response rates means that most survey research is being conducted with an ever smaller proportion of the population, who are taking very large numbers of surveys (in many cases several per week). This raises a growing number of concerns that the research is going to become increasingly unrepresentative.
  2. There are a growing number of areas where researchers feel that survey responses are poor indicators of true feelings, beliefs, priorities, and intentions.
  3. There are a growing number of options that can, in some cases, provide information that is faster, better, cheaper – or some combination of all three. Examples of these options include: passive data, big data, neuro-stuff, biometrics, micro-surveys, text processing of open-ended questions and comments, communities, and social media monitoring.

Surveys are the most important thing in market research!
There is a paradox, in market research, about surveys, and this paradox is highlighted by the following statements both being true:

  1. The most important data collection method in market research is surveys (this is because over half of all research conducted, in terms of dollars spent) is conducted via surveys.
  2. The most important change in market research data collection is the move away from surveys.
Because surveys are currently so important to market research there is a vast amount of work going on to improve them, so that they can continue to deliver value, even whilst their share of MR declines. The steps being taken to improve the efficiency and efficacy of surveys include:
  • Mobile surveys
  • Device agnostic surveys
  • Chunking the survey into modules
  • Implicit association
  • Eye-tracking
  • Gamification
  • Behavioural economics
  • Biometrics
  • In the moment research
  • Plus a vast rage of initiatives to merge other data, such as passive data, with surveys.

How quickly will surveys disappear?
When assessing how quickly something will disappear we need to assess where it is now and how quickly it could change.

It is hard to know exactly how many surveys are being conducted, especially with the growth of DIY options. So, as a proxy I have taken ESOMAR’s figures on market research spend.

The table below shows the proportion of global, total market research spend that is allocated to: Quant via surveys, Quant via other routes (e.g. people meters, traffic, passive data etc), Qual, and Other (including secondary data, consultancy and some proportion of communities).

The first three rows show the data reported in the ESOMAR Global Market Research reports. Each year reflects the previous year’s data. The data show that surveys grew as a proportion of research from 2007 to 2010. This was despite a reduction in the cost of surveys as F2F and CATI moved to online. From 2010 to 2013 there was indeed a drop in the proportion of all research spend that was devoted to surveys. However, given the falling cost of surveys and the continued growth of DIY, it is likely that the absolute number of surveys may have grown from 2010 to 2013.

Other quant, which covers many of the things that we think will replace surveys, fell from 2007 to 2010. In many cases this was because passive collection techniques became much cheaper. For example the shift from expensive services to Google Analytics.

The numbers in red are my guess as to what will happen over the next few years. My guess best on 35 years in the industry, talking to the key players, and applying what I see around me.

I think surveys could lose 9 percentage points in 3 years – which is a massive change. Does anybody seriously think it will be much faster? If surveys lose 9 percentage points they will fall below 50% of all research, but still be the largest single method.

I am also forecasting that they will fall another 11 percentage points by 2019 – trends often accelerate – but again, does anybody really think it will be faster? If that forecast is true, by 2019 about one-third of paid for research will still be using surveys. Other quant will be bigger than surveys, but will not be a single approach; there will be many forms of non-survey research.

I also think that Other (which will increasingly mean communities and integrated approaches) and qual will both grow.

What do you think?
OK, I have nailed my flag to the mast, what do you think about this issue? Are my forecasts too high, about right, or too low? Do you agree that the single most important thing about existing data collection methods is the survey process? And, that the most important change is the movement away from surveys?


 

Aug 192014
 
NodeXL

Back in July I asked ‘Who are the most influential market research people on Twitter?’ After some banter we narrowed the question to the #MRX tag and mid-July. I asked for nominations, Jeffrey Henning prepared a special version of his #MRX tweeted links report, and we have had input from ColourText, Texifter, and NodeXL.

You can read the full report by clicking here, and the full report includes several links back to much fuller and interactive information form some of the people who have made this report possible.

But here is a meta-analysis of the findings. To produce the list I tabulated who made the top ten of at least one of the lists, counted how often they made the top ten, and ranked them by that.

So this meta list is a follows:

Account

Score

euromonitor

5

lennyism

5

mramrx

5

raypoynter

5

researchlive

5

jhenning

4

thomasjohne

4

ipsosmori

3

kristofdewulf

3

tomderuyck

3

darrenmarknoyce

2

djsresearch

2

gavinspavin

2

lovestats

2

1sue3

1

colinstrong

1

edward04

1

effectiveresrch

1

erica_dfirst

1

joelrubinson

1

jonpuleston

1

lrwonline

1

mdmktingsource

1

tomewing

1

tomhcanderson

1

tweetmrs

1

visioncritical

1

A five means the account was identified as ‘influential’ or widely linked or widely reacted to or linked to popular links by most of the routes used in the report. A 1 means the account made one of the top ten lists.

Of course, this does not mean these 27 are the most influential, nor does it mean the people at the top are the most influential, and it does not mean that influence exists in the way it is often assumed to (see this great TED talk by Sinan Aral on this topic).

Read the full report by clicking here.

I’d like to give my thanks to NodeXL, Jeffrey Henning, Texifter, and ColourText for helping produce this report, and to @lennyism for his support in getting the idea off the ground and for helping share the results.


 

Aug 172014
 
iBeacon

Beacons are devices that send a signal to people’s mobile phones, which identifies when somebody is close to a specific beacon, which in turn allows locations (e.g. a Starbucks) to know that somebody is in their store, which allows a range of marketing and market research options to be enabled. Beacons are the key that unlocks location-based research, which is one of the key requirements of ‘in the moment’ research. OK, there is a lot of jargon in that sentence, so let’s unpick it.

In the moment research. Traditional research was based on asking respondents to remember what they had seen and done. This was not too much of a challenge with really big things, like how many cars or refrigerators did you buy this month, and if you bought one, what brand was it and roughly how much did you pay. But if you want to know where somebody bought their bottled water, how they felt about the way they were served by a barista, or how their commute into work today went, the interactions need to be investigated during the activity, or immediately afterwards. This sort of research is called in the moment research. Location-based research. This means that the location triggers the research. For example, somebody visits a supermarket and the supermarket research activity is triggered. Later they visit a station and a travel related activity is triggered.

Beacons and iBeacons. The first beacons that were used for location-based activities were based on sound. The beacons were fitted in locations, such as a store, and emitted a very high frequency signature. The sound was too high pitched for humans to hear it, but mobile devices running the appropriate app could detect it. The beacon was in a location such as a store, when a participating respondent entered the store the beacon, the store, the company running the service, and the participant’s phone all know the participant is in the store. Which means the location can be recorded and an action initiated.

Sonic beacons have been superseded by beacons using Bluetooth LE (the LE stands for low energy), with the key example being Apple’s iBeacon. Although iBeacon is an Apple device it can work with iPhones and Android devices.

ShopKick. The most high profile user of beacons is not a market research company, but a marketing company, ShopKick. ShopKick persuade people to sign up to their system so they can earn awards for visiting participating sites. ShopKick can then use their system to send messages, coupons, request for actions etc.

The near future? Beacons are unlocking location-based research and in the moment research, which is going to increase the reach, sensitivity, and validity of market research.

What’s Hot in Research? Beacons are one example of something that is hot in market research. To find out more about what is hot, check out this post on the NewMR website.


 

Aug 142014
 
Godzilla

One of the questions I get asked most often is “What’s hot in market research?”. I will be broadcasting my update as NewMR lecture next Wednesday, August 20, (you can register for it here).

But here is a sneak peek into what is hot, still hot, bubbling under the surface, and not so hot.

Still Hot
It is important when looking at the ‘new stuff’ not to ignore stuff that has been around for a while, but which is still growing in market share, importance, and usage:

  • Mobiles in traditional research. Mobile is a big and growing part of CATI, online surveys, and F2F – this trend has a long way to go yet.
  • Communities. Communities (including Insight Communities and MROCs) have been the fastest growing major new research approach for a few years now, and this is going to continue.
  • DIY. We hear less about DIY these days, that is probably because it has become normal, this sector is growing, both in terms of part of being a key part of existing MR and partly because it is growing the scope of market research.

Hot!
These are three of the items that I think are the hottest topics in MR, in terms of their growth and potential. All three of these are going to be game changers.

  • Beacons. For example iBeacons, which use geofencing and allow location-based services (including research) to be offered in much easier and more practical ways than is offered by methods such as GPS.
  • In the moment research. Research using mobiles and research using participants to capture information as people go about their normal day, including qual, quant, and passive, is making research more valid and sensitive.
  • Micro surveys. The most high profile micro (or nano or very short) provider is Google Consumer Surveys, but there are a variety of other providers, such as RIWI. Also, Beacons, In the Moment, and Communities are all leveraging Micro Surveys.

Bubbling
These three are going to make a major impact soon, but not quite yet.

  • Text analytics. The technology is not quite here yet, but when it clears the last few hurdles it will hit market research like a freight train – for example shifting the balance from closed questions to open questions, and finally driving more value out of social media discourses.
  • Web messaging. Apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, and Line are growing faster than anything else globally. A few people are looking at how to leverage these for market research, and more will follow.
  • Research bots. One of the key factors limiting the use of social media, communities, and the use of video is the requirement to use people to do the moderation and analysis. Bots (software applications short for robots) are going to change this and open a new, vast range of options.

Not So Hot
These three are all interesting niches, some people are making a good living from them, but they are not scaling in a way that makes a difference to most brands or researchers.

  • Facial Coding. It answers some questions, but is limited in terms of its range of uses, delays, scalability, and cost.
  • Webcam qual. The benefits are usually too small and the resistance from potential participants are too high to make this a generally useful approach.
  • Social Media Research. Whilst social media research, especially monitoring, has become essential, it has not grown into what was expected.

What about?

  • Big Data
  • Behavioural Economics
  • Gamification
  • Smartphone ethnography
  • Neuroscience
  • Geotracking
  • Wearbles
  • Quantified Self
  • Biometrics

Want to know where these items fit in this picture? Tune in to our webinar next Wednesday, 10am New York time, which is 3pm London time. Click here to register.


 

Aug 132014
 
Sue Cardwell 2

Guest post by Sue Cardwell, marketing manager at Infotools Sue is a keen proponent of effective data visualization for business success. Sue has 10 years of experience in the consumer insight field across several countries. She now lives in Auckland, New Zealand and works for Infotools. Sue is an inveterate blogger and self-confessed chart geek who loves creating new vizzes in her spare time. You can see more by Sue Cardwell here.

Click here to see a list of the other posts in this series. If you would like to contribute a post to this series contact admin@newmr.com.


“Do you want to allow this app to post to Facebook?”

No, I did not! I felt each new socially-connected service was an invasion of my private life. I was a classic lurker: someone who watches what other people post on social, but is shy about sharing.

But I’m also a marketer. We get excited about the shiny new toys of social media. Gradually I found my barriers being broken down in favour of the benefits I gained.

Time for a major attitude shift. As I gained confidence with social sharing, I made the decision to embrace transparency. I am who I am, and I’m happy for you to see that. If you wished, you could find out that I’m a data viz fan who loves hiking and cooks a mean pizza. I made and still make plenty of mistakes (over-sharing, anyone?). But being authentic means making mistakes sometimes.

My activity got me noticed. People recognised me when they saw me at market research events, and strangers were happy to talk to me. (I found out later that what was happening is called the Mere Exposure Effect. People like and trust something more when they are exposed to it more times.) I had more meaningful conversations and I felt more connected to my market research community.

Later I became the marketing manager of Infotools, a company that makes brilliant market research analysis and visualization tools. I was keen to spread my positive experience of social sharing with people there. It’s especially great for Infotools because we’re head-quartered in New Zealand so it’s not always handy to catch up with our clients and peers at events in the 100 countries we deal with. Social media erases borders and time zones.

But not everyone was as keen as I was to be visible on social media! Often, my enthusiasm met with resistance, fear and scepticism.

My theory on this is that market research attracts analytical minds. As researchers, we’re cautious observers, who love to explore lots of information before acting – if we ever get around to acting. Compared to say the advertising industry, we aren’t natural soapbox shouters.

However, we do love a good debate. We adore analysing research techniques and approaches to find the best solutions for delivering insight and business results. LinkedIn and Twitter are ideal places to do just that. Social conversations advance our industry by exchanging and developing ideas, and also by building community and culture.

So I challenge market researchers: feel the fear and do it anyway! You have everything to gain.


 

Aug 122014
 
Maya Middlemiss 2014

Guest post by Maya Middlemiss, Managing Director of Saros Research, a UK-based company specialising in market research recruitment.

Click here to see a list of the other posts in this series. If you would like to contribute a post to this series contact admin@newmr.com.


This post focuses on what social media means to Saros Research. Research participant recruitment is all about connecting with people, reaching out to potential new audiences – and the social media revolution of recent years has given us an amazing array of new tools with which to do this. Our social media and content creation strategy is at the heart of our database development process, alongside a range of powerful offline tools which will always be needed as well.

We create and curate extensive content to introduce the idea of research participation to people, and encourage them to register as potential participants – via our own blog and also guest blogging (such as a resident slot at Birds-on-the-Blog). Having pioneered database-driven recruitment in the UK since the turn of the millennium we are aware that there is still a vast potential audience out there who simply don’t know they can get paid to share their views in qualitative research – and we are continually on the look-out for ways to engage with them. Our analytics help us decide where to put our efforts, to reach out to different audiences, based on the demand coming from our research clients.

We use our Facebook Page to disseminate our content, and also to place teasers for projects we want people to apply for – as well as to recruit to our database. As our main B2C channel, we find it a good way to get feedback from members and participants as well.

Similarly with Twitter, where we also curate a range of industry and related news several times a day. Twitter is becoming an increasingly important client and participant communications channel for us, and a good way to get urgent shouts-out rapidly to a wide audience. Twitter is also a great monitoring and listening tool, to find out relevant conversations are going on which we can engage with appropriately.

We use LinkedIn to build authority, distribute our own and others’ industry and business-related content, and to engage in relevant groups. We are still evaluating the impact of the new LinkedIn publishing platform, which seems to function so far as a useful B2B guest-blogging tool… But, one we are using without losing sight of the importance of owning one’s own content: anything you publish on someone else’s site costs you in overall control and traffic.

Anything else? Well are Pinning of course –isn’t everybody? It’s not going to big for us I don’t think. And our Youtube channel is important, for sharing user feedback as well as illustrating exactly what we do, not least because of it’s close connection to Google+.

Of course, participant recruitment is a specific niche within market research where it remains vital to be continually communicating with public audiences. It is resource-intensive to do it the way we do, but makes sense for database-driven recruitment. It might make less sense for other research companies, or those operating in different niches – it helps that I have a personal passion for social media, and write and blog and consult on it anyway…

As with any marketing activity, you need to know what your intention is, and how you will measure whether you have been successful with it, before you can decide what exactly to do. This direction needs to take place at a strategic level, even if the execution happens at a junior one – and I believe this is where many organisations slip up. Perhaps it’s simply down to not having anyone senior enough to create and implement the social media strategy, but a lot of quite large companies seem to bolt-on social media as an afterthought or leave it in the wrong hands, then wonder why it hasn’t worked out for them.

Things change very rapidly in the social media world, there are a great many shiny things to go chasing after, and measuring ROI can be challenging. Even identifying what to measure is difficult, it’s easy to get distracted by vanity metrics – so many people like and follow us! But how does that impact the bottom line? You can waste a great deal of time on the wrong things if you don’t identify your objectives very clearly at the outset. Also if you screw up you will do so very publicly – as many brands have learned to their cost.

For most of the research companies we recruit for, use of social media will tend to be driven by different factors to our own – prioritising authority building over reach, for example. And managing what we do remains part of a process under continual review, we can never assume we’ve finally got it nailed because the landscape keeps changing.

But we love social media here at Saros and will continue to use it for all the right reasons.