Vantage Point: How social media can make an impact

Debjani Deb is managing partner, EmPower Research, a Genpact company
Debjani Deb is managing partner, EmPower Research, a Genpact company

The rise of social media has caught market researchers' attention, mostly as a way to seek stakeholder opinions and insights by listening and learning. But social media research largely remains an enigma owing to its limitations.

Data is highly unstructured, with a lack of specific responses to a question. Plus, the origin of declaration is often unidentified, and results represent only the population that is online and chooses to express an opinion. On the other hand, the spontaneous primary opinion reflects behavior attitude and interest. Researchers get access to “latent” needs/opinions expressed proactively and save on time and costs.

If one can convert unstructured data to a structured form, deep insights await. Here are three game-changing ways social media can have a far-reaching impact on study time, costs, quality and outcomes:

1. As a precursor to traditional research: As companies design primary market research, social media research can help to develop/validate hypotheses. This is very useful in the absence of a strong focus of investigation or when the research objective is to understand an opportunity space with a broad scope or yet unknown.

2. As an alternative to traditional research: When researchers try to understand patient issues on sensitive topics or undefined categories, social media can overcome barriers such as discomfort in discussing sensitive topics, or lack of adequate understanding.

3. Augmenting traditional research: To understand drivers of sales/brand fluctuations, linking sales-performance data to stakeholder opinions is critical. Social media data used as a lead indicator gives insights about drivers and other research questions.

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