Why Market Researchers Struggle with Web Listening

In a recent blog post, Forrester's Brad Bortner lists three ways that researchers might want to consider utilizing social media:
  1. Create a private Market Research Online Community.
  2. Mine open communities for discussions of interest.
  3. Harvest quantitative sample from social networks.

These are all completely valid ways of using available resources that live within the comfort zone for researchers - or at most, slightly outside it. But it misses a big opportunity to (in the words of Crimson Hexagon's Candace Fleming ) "listen to consumers in the wild."

With constantly improving tools that are tunable to answer specific questions it is now possible to really "hear" the online conversation and make sense of it all. By determining tone and level of influence you can glean tremendously valuable information that feeds other explorations and informs potential online strategies.

So why do researchers scratch their heads? We don't know who these people are, what they bought, or what panel they belong to... or any of the other screening criteria normally included in a research study.

But we do know that they are real or at least as real as people in the research panels we so vehemntly trust. Should essential decisions be mare this way? Probably not.
Should it be a key input to understanding brand health and customer experiences? Absolutely.


And as researchers we need to understand how to use it instead of how to discredit other people's use of it if we are going to thrive in this new world.

Comments

foibles said…
Tools for tracking trends and sentiments 'in the wild' have a use but they are often crude because the data hose is so fat and noisy (think: Twitter). Polling and surveys still have a place at the table, albeit adjusted for new media platforms. zoomerang's facebook app comes to mind as one possible tool.
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