Most of us have already been exposed to market research or any other social or opinion information gathering technique of any kind. Be it entering a new market, understanding a demographic or launching a new product, one has to understand the ins and outs to support the decision making process. Still, a lot of people picture market research in the traditional form, such as surveys, focus groups and panels. They all have been proven to be extremely helpful when it comes down to getting your answers. Nonetheless, the growth of internet users increases also the number of information, or traces, that people leave behind in various forms, such as on blogs, comment sections, social media platforms or forums. This is when social / digital listening comes into play.
To understand internet as the much needed support vehicle to traditional research, we should explore the booming markets, notably Asia-Pacific where Social Listening has proved to be extremely useful. The recent study has showed that across APAC, more than 145 million people joined at least social media network in 2015. This means over 4 more people who will share their opinions and thoughts online, every second. The numbers are even more extreme for developing countries, such as Cambodia and Myanmar where the user growth exceeds 300% mark on year-to-year change. More staggering are the numbers on time spent online, reaching over 5 hours a day in majority of South-East Asian countries. When adding over 80% of web users being active on social media platforms into the equation, there is a strong indicator of massive potential for collecting the social data that netizens leave behind up for grabs. For future, the social network user penetration across most South-East Asian countries is expected to reach over 75%.
Projected Social Networks User Growth 2016-2019 (in millions)
There is a lot of social psychology behind what people share online, and most do not really pay attention to how much they expose about their favourite products, life plans, personal information or for instance food preferences. Sharing is easy and 50% of social media users share their interests and preferences purely for fun. However, there are lurking listening tools and analysts which are after the much wanted information that people post on API channels. Posting and sharing is just one click away and it is so tempting when you are an internet user. Honestly speaking, every single one of us is guilty of sharing in public spaces. And since we leave the much needed data floating in the internet ocean, we are becoming silent contributors to the R&D for next smartphone, improving the menu list in a restaurant we reviewed on TripAdvisor or changing the routes of airlines.
Online qualitative research is found extremely beneficial for being able to bridge geographies easily and hence reducing translation costs, having the immediately available transcript and immense amount of researchable subjects available. Compared to traditional offline research, in online research, you fail to identify body language or eye and facial movements. Used language may also appear as a barrier; however, advanced agencies are able to distinguish the tonality and unusual use of words such as jargon, slang, irony or sarcasm even in written conversations on social and digital. Yet, online research has an advantage in exploring more about particular individuals when conducting thorough persona or influencer analyses. Talking purely about social media platforms, the persona you see on Facebook will appear differently on Instagram and their LinkedIn profile, meaning that the researchers already have 3 sources of data to gather from exposing fairly intimate information. The latest study on social media privacy of teenagers states that over 40% of Facebook users do not restrict access to their profiles, which means that the data is easier to acquire. Nevertheless, this study does not incorporate message boards, forums and online discussions, where enormous amount of data is publicly available. This gives you an idea about how much data there is actually available for research exercises.
In summary, it must be noted that wherever possible, traditional offline research need to go hand-in-hand with social / digital insights to get the more concise and fuller picture. Successful companies of today are using both forms of market research, as there is never enough of relevant data to support your assumptions and to improve your decision making processes. They both act as tools to facilitate understanding your business and are crucial for maintaining competitiveness of your efforts.
And what is your take on the value of social / digital research?
Have you already used it? How did it benefit your overall research methodology?
South-East Asia statistics - http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Southeast-Asia-Has-Among-Highest-Social-Network-Usage-World/1013275
Social media privacy study - http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/05/21/teens-social-media-and-privacy/