Last month when I wrote about discourse/text analytics, I said that the field wasn’t fully developed yet and that for now I was leaning in the direction of market research online communities (MROCs) for two reasons: they were a closed community of targeted consumers, and with a group of 200-500, it was manageable to read/review all their postings and interactions.
Within a couple of days, I attended a local QRCA meeting where social media was discussed at length. It reminded me that I needed to clarify that my issues with discourse/text analytics were primarily on the quantitative level. Clearly, any of us in marketing research, and specifically in qualitative research, have been following social media with great interest and using it where we can.
Today, my take is this: social media review is another aspect of the due diligence I conduct when preparing to meet a client for the first time or when preparing a discussion guide for a study. It’s always important to learn as much as we can and to have our fingers on the pulse of what’s being said. (For the record, there are those who believe that qualitative social media mining is comparable to a qualitative research study. I don’t agree with that point of view at all!)
The limitations I highlighted regarding quantitative text analytics apply to qualitative explorations as well. Specifically, are you listening the “right” people online, are they a representative mix of your target? And are the people that may have the most important things for us to hear saying it in an online public forum?
The advantage to qualitative exploration of social communications – a term I like better than social media – is that we are able to read the tweets and posts and do a better job of making sense of what we’re reading vs. machine classification (positive/neutral/negative or some other tagging structure). More often than not , we still don’t know who the people are, but we can get an overview of what’s being said and the terms/tone being used.
The biggest hurdle we have is how to aggregate this information. For the casual searches (those I do for myself, without client commission), I like Addictomatic.com and SocialMention.com. (Images below.) Addictomatic allows me to read more from their dashboard; SocialMention provides me with a directional overview and top keywords (often useful when I need to dig further). For clients seeking more detailed, automated solutions, there is Radian6 and ObjectiveMarketer, among others.
I haven’t yet had a client give me their social-media report as a springboard for developing a qualitative study, but the time is coming. Until then, I’ll remain proactive in including social-communications analysis as part of my process, in the best way I can.
What’s your take on including social media/communications analysis as a routine part of the qualitative process?