Request a Quote

A question that frequently came up during some recent conversations  “Do I need to do customer and market research when I have access to so much social media and web data?” We hate to break it to you, and because we do research this may sound defensive, but YES!

You need to do formal market research in addition to your social media listening. Why you ask? Because social media listening is NOT market research. There are some very important differences and as result you need both. The nature of listening is to attend. Research in its most basic form is to inquire, to examine. There is a rigor to research. Research begins with a question and the question helps you formulate your approach or methodology. While listening may be employed as part of your research methodology (focus groups, IDIs), research suggests that you are discovering or testing facts or theories.

Customer Insights

Research helps you answer important questions about your customers, competition, and the market.

The Difference Between Listening and Research

Sentiment analysis, content analysis, and Twitter search are not the same as doing research. Listening is definitely good; there is a lot to learn. Social media listening, although an important tool, is not going to give you the insights into customer behavior that you need to innovate and gain competitive advantage. With social media listening, you’ll know exactly what your competitors know.

However, social media listening is not the same as identifying the questions you want to ask and getting the answers. Relying on the voice of the customer as it is expressed online is a reactive, rather than proactive approach.

Formal Research enables you to:

  • Ask the questions you want to ask
  • Begin with and test a hypothesis
  • Requires a representative sample for results to be valid and reliable
  • Enables you to predict what might happen in the future

If these are important to you, then conduct research.

Sentiment analysis, content analysis, and Twitter search are not the same as doing research. Don’t get us wrong; listening is definitely good and you can learn a lot from hearing what your critics and supporters say about you. However, social media listening is not the same as identifying the questions you want to ask and getting the answers. Relying on the voice of the customer as it is expressed online is a reactive, rather than proactive, approach. Further, social media does not necessarily offer a representative sample. Therefore, how valid and reliable are the results?

While Social media listening cannot replace the rigor of the traditional scientific method, it can still play a role in customer research.  Social media listening is a great exploratory methodology that can play an important role in customer research:

  • Provide qualitative insights. Many companies have successfully used crowdsourcing and targeted online communities to garner insights into customer wants and needs.
  • Reveal unmet needs. Further, the qualitative nature of social media enables listeners to uncover potential unmet needs and learn things they never thought to ask about.
  • Test ideas in real time. Once choices have been narrowed down, floating trial balloons on a social media network or community can offer immediate feedback.
  • Collect data. And there is nothing to stop market researchers from using a social media-based data collection tool within the rigors of a well-designed study.
Use both listening and research.

Listening and Research complement each other. You need both.

Formal Research is Critical for Capturing Customer Insights

The bottom line is this:  Social media listening, although an important tool, is not going to give you the insights into customer behavior that you need to innovate and gain competitive advantage. With social media listening, you’ll know exactly what your competitors know. Nothing more.

Today’s marketers need to remember that one of their primary jobs is providing the rest of the company with a window into the customer. This takes research. Over the years we have watched company after company reduce their research budgets until all they cover is a smattering of syndicated research. It there is money available for more tailored research, it is typically only enough to cover secondary research or an online survey or two. In our work, we find that even the best-in-class marketers fall short when it comes to developing insight to understand customer behavior.

This is a good time to reexamine your priorities and determine how to allocate their resources to improve your ability to retain and grow business with existing customers. Make the investment in research if you want deeper insights into buyer behavior. Quality matters. Consider working with experts in research. Check out our work.

Comments are closed.

Follow me on Twitter

Best-In-Class marketers excel at

evaluating and improving their Marketing effectiveness.

Download this document to find out

how they do it and access the Free checklist.

Evaluate Your Marketing Effectiveness

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

%d bloggers like this: