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Published November 30th 2016

Talking Market Research: Blending Data Sets for Actionable Social Insights

We’re back at it again, ready and willing to answer your pressing social consumer insights questions. These questions weren’t plucked from thin air, they surfaced during and after our recent webinar on why social is a vital component for uncovering the right data.

If you missed our first post in this five-part series, there’s time to give it a read. I’ll wait.

Okay, enough procrastinating. Let’s get to the next question.

What other data sets – beyond traditional market research – should consumer insights professionals analyze and blend together to create a full 360-degree view of consumers? And what are the benefits of traditional versus social data consumer insights?

Here is James McCormick’s take. I’d read carefully, he is after all Principal Analyst serving Customer Insights Professionals at Forrester Research.


When this digital transformation accelerated during the last decade, organizations merged the customer behaviors they were seeing on their own websites with customer activity and sentiment on non-owned properties (i.e., social platforms and publisher sites). This provided a level of understanding of how customers moved between these media.

Today’s challenge for customer insights professionals — now that customer use of smartphones and apps has proliferated — is to merge newly available app and contextual data with social, web, email, and offline data.

But it won’t stop there: Advanced insights practices are bringing customer data collected through internet-of-things (IoT)/connected devices such as wearables, connected cars, and remote sensing devices into the mix. The list of data sets to help generate a holistic view of customers as they engage with the brand is extensive and growing by the day.”

The rise of the machines feels more real than ever now, given James’ perspective and examples of using data collected from IoT and wearables/connected devices. Marrying sales and social data and then blending that with CRM data is a great way to draw out interesting and helpful insights. But why stop there?

The sky really does seem to be the limit given the volume and variety of devices and technologies capturing data about our habits every second of the day – from the steps our smartphones track, to our heart rate’s captured by fitness trackers, and even the number of times we open are connected refrigerators.

Our Jetsons future seems to have arrived early.

Aamna Dabral, Social Media Analyst in Brandwatch’s Research Services team, gave us some of her time and expertise on how and which data sets to use for the most complete 360-degree view of customers. Having recently worked on projects that leveraged the power of unique blends of different sets, we knew she’d be the right person to ask.

“I am sure we have all heard this many times before, however, I am still going to use this opportunity to reiterate the fact that an integrated approach is the key to fully understanding your consumer.

While traditional research is a great way to pull insights in a planned and controlled manner, complementing this type of research with a more organic approach, such as with social data, helps researchers uncover insights and conversations they might have missed with a more planned approach. When augmenting a more traditional research plan, exploratory research with social can help develop the framework for traditional surveys/guides. For example, while looking at social conversation around a product, a researcher could find mentions around issues with a specific product feature such as interface, and then use traditional focus groups to get more specifics on the pain points around that product feature. Social can also be used after insights have been collected from traditional market research to further quantify/reiterate findings or to even get more nuanced and unprompted qualitative information to add more color, details, and specifics to the initial findings.

301e969Having worked in traditional research before, I have had the opportunity to plan both traditional and social research plans. It would definitely be unfair to say that one type of insight is better than the other, however, there are some specific benefits that social data has over its more traditional counterpart.

Firstly, social data provides something that is usually very hard for traditional research to replicate – a data set that provides the analyst with both quantitative and qualitative data. You pull thousands and thousands of data points that help you quantify your findings, however, each of these data points also helps add color and nuance to your analysis. In short, you get qualitative data on the same scale as quantitative studies.

Additionally, social data also wins out over traditional when it comes to flexibility and timing. Setting up a traditional research plan – especially a qualitative one – involves more planning and scheduling, both of which can be time consuming. Social research on the other hand moves more quickly. It is also more dynamic, giving researchers more flexibility to change trajectory or deep dive whenever something interesting shows up. Our clients frequently take advantage of this flexibility by catching on to interesting findings early in the process and then using additional deep dives to further bolster these findings.

The other very important benefit that comes to mind is the ability to easily compare current findings with old ones, or see how a conversation has developed over time.

For traditional research, it is always important to have a benchmark study or benchmark metrics to assess movement in conversation and metrics.

However, all of these have to be preplanned. With social research you can pull historical data and compare it with a new data set without having to plan the research in advance. In my work in the Brandwatch Research Services team, we frequently conduct landscape studies for many of our clients where we assess not just the current landscape but also how it has evolved over time.

Young Boy Looking Through Binoculars Hiding in Grass

To give a more specific example, if a financial services brand comes to us wanting to understand student loan conversation on social channels, not only can we look at what this conversation looks like right now, but also see how the discussion has evolved over time and what types of long term trends we are seeing that could be beneficial to that brand as well as their industry on the whole. Traditional research is able to get historical data only by asking respondents directly about their past preferences and behaviors. The ability to juxtapose current and historical data and evaluate trends and discussions over time gives market researchers a new level of consumer understanding.

These were just a few of the key benefits that social research has over more traditional research methods. The list goes on and on, and changes frequently based on the research question being asked as well as the key objectives of the research.”

The market research industry is in an exciting period right now with new tactics, combinations of data, and methods to uncover consumer preferences emerging all the time.

I mean it when I say watch this space.

Download the report The Case for Social CMI for more insights on taking your research to another level with social data.

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