Social intelligence is changing the field of market research

Social Media Intelligence

The past 10 years the field of market research and customer insight has changed substantially. New technologies and social media makes online listening and observation a great tool – and sometimes even a substitute – to asking ’old fashioned’ questions from a questionnaire or running a mandatory focus group.

The ’old time questionnaire’ has many advantages, but also many disadvantages. It is fairly expensive, it takes time, the sample is often debated and very hard to perfect, the questions asked even more so since there is always room for interpretations from the respondents. Also, from the respondents’ side, answering really truthfully to the questions is difficult, possibly because it is really hard to be fully aware of how you actually act and behave to in different situations. Asking questions, lot of questions, can also be perceived as intrusive and time consuming from the respondents’ perspective. A 25 minutes phone interview does not exactly make anyone feel enthusiastic – any evening of the week. The focus group format also has its challenges such as lack of representation, the difficulty to involve everyone, the respondents being impacted by the other respondents answers and so on.

Today, the market research industry is not only going online and developing from market research suppliers to insight generators. The industry is also facing a few other important trends…

Going from questioning to listening and observing…

Oana Stroie, at, writes: ”-As an industry, market research used to be heavily skewed towards asking people questions. Lots of questions. But with the rise of social media listening capabilities and passive data collection methods, we can now tap into millions and millions of conversations already taking place…”.

Going from the artificial to natural human interaction…

Consumer insight is today more integrated in what people do naturally. It does not necessarily require the artificial set up of an interviews, questionnaires or a focus group. Listening and observing brand interaction can make all the difference.

Going from focus on quantitiative or qualitative research to different kind of hybrids…

Traditionally the market research industry has been rather conservative and placed research in one of the two baskets qualitative research or quantitative research. Today, socially intelligent research and social media has opened up new opportunities to understand and explore consumers, their attitudes and behaviours. The trend is hence going towards an increase of hybrid research, involving different types of research approaches and including social media analysis. This will hopefully also bring a more complete and deeper understanding of true consumer behaviour.

Personally, I welcome the change, which makes it possible to tap into the information flow on a continuous basis rather than once or twice every or every second year – depending on your budget. A challenge right now is however the rich selection of insight tools that makes it very hard for anyone – professional or layman – to identify the best and most relevant solutions. Here, time will tell who will come out on top.



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