Using Social Listening and Online Communities to Optimise Your Research

\"\"As the times change and technologies evolve, it is important that all industries and professions adapt to stay relevant. That, of course, includes market research.

Nowadays, social listening and analytics are (or at least should be) an integral part of market research and customer insights. Adding these proven concepts to your already functioning surveys will optimise the efficiency and accuracy of your research by giving you fully representative data about how consumers perceive your brands and products.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can now be used to discover new customer insights. With Machine Learning (the most successful type of AI) and computational linguistic methods, it is now possible to conduct text analytics, natural language processing, and sentiment and semantic analysis, amongst other things, with high accuracy, on millions of public online posts or other unstructured text—something impossible to do manually—thus allowing you to access otherwise unobtainable sources and findings.

These methods can be applied to any brand/topic/country/language and can be integrated with and inform traditional market research.

What to Look for in a Social Listening Platform?

Generally, the purpose of using a social listening and analytics solution for research is to discover your customer’s insights. In order to obtain accurate data, the platform will need to be able to access online posts on any public website and in any language. The insights that are detected can then be integrated with surveys and other data.

A high focus on accuracy is required throughout; to ensure this, the platform must have the ability to clean each dataset and rid it of any irrelevant data before analysis is carried out, and then deliver the results with sentiment and semantic topics.

How can Social Listening Benefit a Business?

Social listening can help any brand or organisation find out what is being said about them and their competitors online, and manage their online reputation on social media and other online locations. This in turn enables them to better understand how consumers express themselves and how they feel about a brand or product. Furthermore, it can be used for the benefit of multiple departments within an organisation—for example, to dontdontevaluate digital marketing campaigns, improve advertising efforts, develop innovative and compelling products, and even address operational and customer service opportunities or identify potential customers.

In this quest to adapt to change, traditional market researchers and research buyers should embrace it to the fullest extent. It is also important to understand the power of integration: connecting the dots between multiple data sources and using various digital methodologies to reach true insights. Integrating social listening with asking questions of an online community would be a good first step.

What are Online Communities Used for?

You can think of online communities as ‘insights on demand’. This is the era of consumer engagement and it is important that every brand and every organisation has open and continuous dialogue with their customers and stakeholders.

As a matter of fact, online communities can be used to engage with prospects, customers, stakeholders, key influencers, even employees—for different purposes, of course. Stakeholders can be kept informed of any crucial decisions; employees can communicate amongst themselves, building team spirit while at the same time being heard by the employer when it comes to employee satisfaction; and a brand can even identify key influencers through their social analytics efforts and invite them to join an exclusive community in order to reach deeper and more meaningful insights.

What Should I Expect from my Online Community?

It is important that your online community platform enables the recruitment and engagement of tens, hundreds, or even thousands of your customers, for co-creation, to give you unique insights, and to strengthen your customer loyalty. The right platform will allow for customisation and branding (or ‘unbranding’) to match your research needs. Along with this, there will usually be a wide range of tools for research, such as polls, bulletin boards, chat groups, photo and video diaries, and the ability to easily integrate third-party tools.

Online communities have no geographical limitations and they can help you interact with people around the world in a cost-effective way, opening a window into consumers’ lives, streamlining all your qualitative research needs, and connecting the dots between multiple ways of gathering information. Asking questions no longer has to be boring.

Written by Emily Rose-Talbot, MRDC Software & Sophia Papagregoriou, DigitalMR