Can social media analytics replace traditional market research?

    3-4 years ago, telling sociologists / researchers “Include the data of social media in your research” - it caused laughter at best. It is remarkable that the VTsIOM was the first “socially risked” public (Valery Fedorov is a wonderful person in his own right) - several breakthrough public cases for the 12-13th years are available on the VoxPopuli website ( ).

    More is more: now that many large brands, state and private companies, agencies, mass media, research structures are already many-year-old and active users of social media monitoring and analysis systems, the trend has turned 180 degrees - now sociologists / receptors are forced to look for their niche, integrating into the trend.

    In principle, no one is against it - the experience and methodologies accumulated by the industry are very good baggage for cooperation and joint strengthening. In addition, social media analytics allows you to solve problems that:

    1. It is impossible to solve using standard methods - see, for example, “Obama Button” ( )
    2. Expensive - for example, the study “Love and Hate in the Regions of Russia” ( mln-polzovatelej-socialnyx-media / ) can be done using survey methods, but the cost will be fantastic
    3. Taboo - topics that people are not ready to discuss with strangers.


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    Social media analytics has several distinct advantages over traditional marketing research. Probably the biggest advantage is that it's cheap and fast. Are the benefits of social media analytics a death sentence for traditional market research methods?

    Benefits of Social Media Analytics for Market Research

    Innovations in the field of monitoring and analytics of social media have given marketers many useful tools for market research. Keyword searches on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social platforms allow you to see many detailed user conversations on almost any topic. Services such as CyberAlert Buzz collect messages on social media, using a combination of automated programs and analysts to analyze and create reports.

    Social media analytics can collect as much data over the days and hours as is collected in a month using traditional methods. In addition, research on users of social networks can be more accurate than traditional market research, as consumers are less predisposed against social networks, unlike other items in the questionnaire. People, as a rule, much more openly express their emotions on social networks, because they are not “pushed” by questions from the questionnaire.

    Due to its clear advantages, social media analytics is confidently moving to replace personal interviews, surveys, focus groups and other familiar market research technologies.

    Limitations of Social Media Analysis

    However, many experts say that social media research cannot yet completely replace traditional marketing research.

    Many consumers do not use social media, or they have a page, but they almost never write or communicate with it. The results of the study of social media present a bias in the sample, which in traditional studies is leveled using random selection methods of respondents. Social media analytics also does not include some demographic information, such as geographical regions (place of residence), profession or level of education - some people can fake or hide them. The opinions of people who do not use social media can differ significantly from the opinions of consumers who use them, if only because these people are different demographic groups. In addition, in some countries, only a small fraction of the population has access to the Internet.

    Social media analytics is still young; research methods are changing rapidly and are far from universal. As a result, the data and results are quite controversial. Traditional research methods, including surveys and focus groups, have a significant advantage in the form of deep-rooted, well-designed and proven technologies and results.

    Addition, but not replacement

    , Marketing specialist Kevin Gray, founder of the consulting company Cannon Gray, as well as Cohen Powels, a professor of marketing at Ozyegin University, Istanbul, argue that social media is a very important component, but not a complete replacement for traditional market research.

    “Social media is still fairly new, as are analytical tools for analyzing them, they are still just evolving,” they wrote in a message to the Green Book, a blog about marketing research. There are also questions about the accuracy of data obtained from social media. It is not known what percentage of people write inaccurate information about themselves, whether they are representatives of a general audience, and whether they are truly honest.

    However, they agree that social media provide a wealth of new information and have greatly influenced marketing research. “The world of marketing has changed a lot over the past decade, and you can’t find a way back, even if you really want to,” the authors conclude.

    A study by Vision Critical, a market research center, mentioned potential flaws in relying solely on social media analysis. Their study, “What Social Media Analytics Won't Tell About Your Customers,” describes how active social media users — who represented only 29 percent of the audience of the three major social media brands, but wrote 85 percent of all brand posts on Facebook — are dramatically different users and their shopping habits.

    Active users of social media, as a rule, are active buyers and prefer to compare stores on their mobile devices when they are already in them, and they are easier to understand for marketers. Consumers who rarely write messages made up the majority of consumers of those brands, and were less active buyers, and they are much more difficult to understand due to the small number of their public comments.

    Comparison of social media analysis methods with the results of traditional marketing research will help marketers understand the difference between research approaches, as well as in assessing the effectiveness of results.In modern market research, marketers should be one step ahead of the analysis of the results of each specific research. Now it’s important to compare traditional research methods with new social media research to better understand the benefits and the most appropriate applications for each system.


    Afterword: Today, many brands conduct social media research in order to quickly and easily (cheaply) conduct market research. Although some marketers say that social media analytics can replace traditional research methods, the use of both traditional and social media research methods is the most effective approach to marketing research to obtain the most accurate information and find the best ways to apply each type of research.

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