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.


 

May 022014
 

One of my favourite social media/listening books is Stephen Rappaport’s Listen First!, so I was delighted when his new book ‘The Digital Metrics Field Guide’ was announced, and even more delighted to get a copy to review.

The book has been produced and published by the ARF and you can download an interactive PDF from this link on the ARF site. The Field Guide is free for ARF members and $29.95 for non-members.

To produce the book Stephen reduced a list of about 350 metrics to 197 and backed these up by referring to almost 150 studies, which illustrates the claim that online is the most measurable medium. The book covers four digital channels: email, mobile, social, and the web, and produces a really easy to use reference for anybody interested in the area.

To make things easier Stephen has organised the information in three ways, Alphabetical, Category, and Marketing Stage – to deal with different tastes and preferences.

12 Fields per Metric
The book is organised in terms of 12 fields per metric, including: where it fits in Paid/Owned/Earned, its category, a definition, and the sorts of questions it answers. The use of a standardised format makes it much quicker for the user to find and locate a specific piece of information.

Examples of metrics covered include:

  • Average time spent on page – including issues such as tabbed browsing and download time.
  • Brand Lift – Did exposure to the advertising impact brand lift measurement?
  • Conversation – How many conversations are people having about the brand?
  • Direct Traffic Visitors – how many people came to the site directly?

Who should buy this book?
I think anybody who, over the next year or so, needs to check on the meaning, use, or definition of more than three or four of the digital metrics should buy a copy of the book. If you only need to refer to one or two, you could simply Google them, find some links, read some articles and come to a view. But, if you want a handy, well-researched, well laid out reference – this is the book for you.

Note, you will not want to necessarily sit down and read this book cover to cover, it is much more of a reference than a good read (but see next note on the essays).

Viewpoints/Essays
The book finishes with a series of 12 essays and viewpoints, from people such as Gunnard Johnson from Google and David Rabjohns from MotiveQuest. Unlike the rest of the book, these should be read as opposed to referred to. Whilst I don’t agree with all the points made in the essays, they are valid and interesting points, and ones that anybody engaged in the medium should be familiar with.

Timely publication
For me the publication of Stephen’s book is very timely as I am working on part of the IPASocialWorks project, looking at a guide to ‘measuring not counting’ in social media. The focus of our work is much more about the strategy and best practices of measuring social phenomena, but Stephen’s book provides a great reference to the variety of metrics available.

Apr 132014
 
Shibyu At Night

OK, let’s get one thing clear from the outset; I am not saying social media mining and monitoring (the collection and automated analysis of quantitative amounts of naturally occurring text from social media) has met with no success. But, I am saying that in market research the success has been limited.

In this post I will highlight a couple of examples of success, but I will then illustrate why, IMHO, it has not had the scale of success in market research that many people had predicted, and finally share a few thoughts on where the quantitative use of social media mining and monitoring might go next.

Some successes
There have been some successes and a couple of examples are:

Assessing campaign or message break through. Measuring social media can be a great way to see if anybody is talking about a campaign or not, and of checking whether they are talking about the salient elements. However, because of some of the measurement challenges (more on these below) the measurement often ends up producing a three level result, a) very few mentions, b) plenty of mentions, c) masses of mentions. In terms of content the measures tend to be X mentions on target, or Y% of the relevant mentions were on target – which in most cases are informative, but do not produce a set of measures that have any absolute utility and usually can be tightly aligned with ROI.

An example of this use came with the launch of the iPhone 4 in 2010. Listening to SM made it clear that people had detected that the phone did not work well for some people when held in their left hand, that Apple’s message (which came across as) ‘you should be right handed’ was not going down well, and that something needed to be done. The listening could not put a figure on how many users were unhappy, nor even if users were less or more angry than non-users, but it did make it clear that something had to be done.

Identifying language, ideas, topics. By adding humans to the interpretation, many organisations have been able to identify new product ideas (the Nivea story of how it used social media listening to help create Nivea Invisible for Black and White is a great example). Other researchers, such as Annie Pettit, have shown how they have combined social media research with conventional research, to help answer problems.

Outside of market research. Other users of social media listening, such as PR and reaction marketers appear to have had great results with social media, including social media listening. One of the key reasons for that is that their focus/mission is different. PR, marketing, and sales do not need to map or understand the space, they need to find opportunities. They do not need to find all the opportunities, they do not even need to find the best opportunities, they just need to find a good supply of good opportunities. This is why the use of social media appears to be growing outside of market research, but also why its use appears to be in relative decline inside market research.

The limitations of social media monitoring and listening
The strength of social media monitoring and listening is that it can answer questions you had not asked, perhaps had not even thought of. Its weakness is that it can’t answer most of the questions that market researchers’ clients ask.

The key problems are:

  • Most people do not comment in social media, most of the comments in social media are not about our clients’ brands and services, and the comments do not typically cover the whole range of experiences (they tend to focus on the good and the bad). This leaves great holes in the information gathered.
  • It is very hard to attribute the comments to specific groups, for example to countries, regions, to users versus non-users – not to mention little things like age and gender.
  • The dynamic nature of social media means that it is very hard to compare two campaigns or activities, for example this year versus last year. The number of people using social media is changing, how they are using it is changing, and the phenomenal growth in the use of social media by marketers, PR, sales, etc is changing the balance of conversations. Without consistency, the accuracy of social media measurements is limited.
  • Most automated sentiment analysis is considered by insight clients and market researchers to either be poor or useless. This means good social media usage requires people, which tends to make it more expensive and slower, often prohibitively expensive and often too slow.
  • Social media deals with the world as it is, brands can’t use it to test ads, to test new products and services, or almost any future plan.

The future?
Social media monitoring and listening is not going to go away. Every brand should be listening to what its customers and in many cases the wider public are saying about its brands, services, and overall image. This is in addition to any conventional market research it needs to do; this aspect of social media is not a replacement for anything, it is a necessary extra.

Social media has spawned a range of new research techniques that are changing MR, such as insight communities, smartphone ethnography, social media bots, and netnography. One area of current growth is the creation of 360 degree views by linking panel and/or community members to their transactional data, passive data (e.g. from their PC and mobile device), and social media data. Combined with the ability of communities and panels to ask questions (qual and quant) this may create something much more useful that just observational data.

I expect more innovations in the future. In particular I expect to see more conversations in social media initiated by market researchers, probably utilising bots. For example, programming a bot to look out for people using words that indicate they have just bought a new smartphone and asking them to describe how they bought it, what else they considered etc – either in SM or via asking them to continue the chat privately. There are a growing number of rumours that some of the major clients are about to adopt a hybrid approach, combining nano-surveys, social media listening, integrated data, and predictive analytics, and this could be really interesting, especial in the area of tracking (e.g. brand, advertising, and customer satisfaction/experience).

I also expect two BIG technical changes that will really set the cat amongst the pigeons. I expect somebody to do a Google and introduce a really powerful, free or almost free alternative to the social media mining and monitoring platforms, and I expect one or more companies to come up with sentiment analysis solutions that are really useful. I think a really useful platform will include the ability to analyse images and videos, to follow links (many interesting tweets and shares are about the content of the link), to build a PeekYou type of database of people (to help attribute the comments), and will have much better text analytics approach.

 

Feb 072014
 
Ask Measure Learn

I’ve just finished reading this book and I would strongly recommend it to anybody seeking to understand the methods and challenges of measuring phenomena in social media. The book is probably stronger on talking about things that don’t work, as opposed to things that do work, but in this time of hype that is probably no bad thing. For example, the book shows why the ROI of many types of activities can’t be measured without making some large assumptions about how things work, and point out that in many cases it is the ‘R’ in ROI that is the problem.

Key themes addressed by the book include metrics for different sorts of social media activities, the problems of assessing causality, the tension between influencer models and homophily, and the difference between reach and intent. The book provides an excellent list of links to further sources (especially if reading the ebook), and provides a great overview of measurement in areas such as social media marketing, CRM, sales, and PR.

This is the best primer on the subject I have read so far and it is, at the moment, sparklingly up to date.

The print copy of the book is not currently available in the UK (and probably lots of other places too as it was only published in the US in January 2014) but it is available on Kindle, and if you buy it directly from O’Reilly Media there is some sort of update/extension deal available.

 

Dec 162013
 

Every week we seem to get a new report saying that Twitter, or Pinterest, or instant chat apps have knocked Facebook off its perch as the number one social media platform in the West, especially amongst younger people. One day this will be true, but not this year, nor next, nor (probably) the year after.

In partnership with Vision Critical’s Springboard omnibus I have re-run a study we first ran in August 2012, looking at social media usage, and focusing on regular social media usage. The data show two big messages:

  1. Facebook dwarfs other social media.
  2. The pace of change between 2012 and 2013 is glacially slow.

Table 1 shows how many people said that they had used each of the listed forms of social media in the last year. The Vision Critical Springboard omnibus is broadly representative of Great Britain, but since it is an online survey, the figures for social media exclude the (approximately) 15% of Britons who do not use the internet.

Table 1 shows that in terms of social media used in the last year, in the UK, there was very little change between 2012 and 2013, other than a drop in the claimed usage of YouTube. The gap between Facebook and the sites that are often reported to be its potential replacements, such as Twitter and Pinterest is massive, and in the case of Twitter not changing. The new messaging services, SnapChat and WeChat appear on the chart, but with very small figures.

Table 2 focuses on recent usage, asking people to say what they have used in the last week. Again the two patterns are that Facebook is a long way ahead of the others and that there are few differences between August 2012 and November 2013.

The final myth that this study crushes is the myth that young people have deserted Facebook. Table 3 looks at Facebook claimed usage (over the last year and over the last week) by three age groups. The two patterns are:

  1. Very few differences between August 2012 and November 2013
  2. Facebook is strongest amongst the youngest people and weakest amongst the oldest.

In terms of the fine detail, amongst the 18-24 year olds, 91% said they had used Facebook in the last year, and 84% said they had used it in the last week.

Why are so many people reporting the demise of Facebook?
Perhaps it is not for me to guess why so many people write about the demise of Facebook and the rise of alternatives, but here are a few thoughts:

  • Claiming new social media is beating Facebook is more newsworthy than saying “Little change”.
  • Some of the studies are based on stated measures such as “important to me”, rather than simply looking at behaviour.
  • The fastest growing phenomena are usually the smallest; small services grew at a fast rate, and the fastest growing demographic is usually the one with lowest usage rate. So, Pinterest grow faster than Facebook, but remains much smaller. The older Facebook users are the fastest growing segment, but remain the smallest group.

Data from InternetWorldStats suggest that Facebook usage in countries like the US and UK is stable. Some people are leaving Facebook, and these are broadly matched by new people joining it. In many other countries Facebook is still growing rapidly, so globally it continues to increase its user base and current dominance.

What about the future?
At some point things are going to change, they always do. But, the change is unlikely to be very soon. My prediction is that in 12 months Facebook will still be the dominant social media platform in the UK, and in most countries outside of China. I doubt that the service that will eclipse Facebook is even in widespread use in most countries at the moment. Perhaps the change will come from China, the only major place where Facebook is not a force and where there are really strong alternatives.


Updated Comment on YouTube

Annie Pettit (@LoveStats) and others have pointed at that whilst the data reported in this post show few changes in the social networks, there is a major change in the reported usage of YouTube. Claimed usage in the last year has fallen from 62% to 44%, and claimed usage in the last week has fallen from 38% to 28%.

This change requires further investigation to check, for example, the following:

  • Might people be under-reporting YouTube usage, perhaps because YouTube links can be embedded in so many other types of site, in particular FaceBook?
  • If YouTube usage has fallen, is that because fashion or tastes have moved on, or because of the advertising that seems to be every more intrusive?
  • How does this reported change compare with with traffic levels for YouTube?


Stop Press! – Google Confirms UK level of interest in Facebook!

The BBC today reported that the most searched for word via Google in the UK during 2013 was Facebook.

Dec 182012
 

The BBC is reporting that Instagram, recently bought by Facebook, is altering its privacy policy to allow third-parties, such as FaceBook and advertisers, to access its members’ information and to use their pictures without permission or recompense. Yes, it is being reported that Instagram is going to be selling your photos, without asking you, without paying you, and without an opt-out!

Instagram/Facebook are not proposing to offer an opt-out of this commercialisation of people’s pictures. They have said, reportedly, that people who are not happy must leave instagram by January 16, 2013 – just under a month from now. CNET has a story titled ‘Instagram says it now has the right to sell your photos’ and Wired is offering advice on how to protect yourself with its article ‘How to Download Your Instagram Photos and Kill Your Account’.

If the reports are accurate and if Facebook does not change its mind I would expect Instagram’s, already weak, user base to largely disappear and for Facebook to face a backlash from users and perhaps legislators.

Facebook paid $1Billion for Instagram, it could soon be worth very, very much less than this.

In a recent post on Vision Critical University I showed that double jeopardy applies in the social media world, i.e. sites with fewer users tend to be less loyal. Instagram is a smaller site, smaller than FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn – so I would expect it suffer badly from letting its users down.

Dec 012012
 
Gartner Hype Cycle

At the Festival of NewMR, Wednesday 5th December, I will be presenting a summary of where social media research is at the moment and where it is going next. As part of that presentation I will be exploring why I think social media research is heading into what Gartner have termed the Trough of Disillusionment. This post explores what I mean by this prediction.

The term social media research has two definitions, a broad one and a narrow one. The broad definition includes social media mining and listening, netnography, communities, smartphone ethnography, research into social media, and social media as a sample source. The narrow definition refers just to the seeking out and collection of large amounts of naturally occurring social media conversations and comments – this definition includes social media listening and mining. It is this narrow definition of social media research that I think is heading into the Trough of Disillusionment.

It should be noted that the Gartner Hype Cycle is a loose description of a repeatedly seen phenomenon – it is not a law and it is certainly not a specific mathematical formula. But it can help understand what often happens to new technologies.

Social media research’s rise was spectacular, with a massive growth in new tools and companies offering a variety of methods to collect data. But, as well as new tools and new companies there was way too much hype. The claims about the share of voice that could be captured online was inflated, the ability to segment the comments by simple demographics (such as country, gender, and age) was massively over-stated, and the claims made for automated sentiment analysis verged on the ludicrous in some cases.

As I have noted in another blog, 2012 seems to have been the year that manual coding of open-ends made a come-back, to the disappointment of most of us. This has been matched by papers looking at combining social media research with ‘old’ research (to compensate for social media research’s weaknesses), concerns about privacy, and a decline in the excitement over what can be found by passively listening to tweets, blogs, and status updates.

This decline in the expectations of social media research will reverse. We will get a better fix on what it can and can’t do, prices will come down, and tools and algorithms will improve. But before that happens, there will be more disillusionment to come.

To hear the whole social media research update, which includes both the broad and narrow definitions of social media research, join me online at the Festival of NewMR, Wednesday 5th December – registering is free.