by Chris Hayes, EVP Brand Strategy

When Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast…” he really wasn’t thinking about the world of marketing, much less social media. But he was unknowingly articulating one of the biggest challenges marketers face in their quest to understand and respond to the always-changing preferences of their customers… how to get timely, accurate and actionable information. Consumers today don’t just have more purchase choices. They also have access to a constant and virtually unlimited stream of information that drives those choices. This is great for the consumer but it presents a difficult problem for every marketer who needs real-time insights as consumer preferences and loyalties are continuously evolving. This is the information gap.

Online survey platforms like Survey Monkey, Google Forms, Client Heartbeat and Survey Gizmo have certainly helped marketers bridge the information gap.

Capabilities and flexibility can vary by company, and there are occasional negatives like tricky inputting and report formatting. Securing an adequate sample of non-customers can also present challenges.

The good news is that the proliferation of social media has introduced interesting new opportunities for marketers needing up-to-the minute market knowledge to drive their brand decisions. A growing number of companies are developing research capabilities to take advantage social media as a research tool. Shopper marketing company Kendal King Group recently introduced SOAPBOX, which offers marketers a front-end vetted network of active social media users across a broad demographic. Its panels of “opinionated shoppers” not only provide in depth feedback on any number of subjects, but can also used for store checks, creative testing, etc.

Another company, NUVI, offers a social media “listening tool” that allows users to “see” conversations in real time across a wide spectrum of social media using sophisticated social dashboards and visualizations. This allows the subscriber to track consumer opinions on any number of subjects.

Social media-based research has a number of plusses:
• The sample size is almost unlimited
• It can generate actionable insights from tightly targeted demographic groups
• It generally takes less time than traditional research methodologies
• Costs are relatively reasonable compared to more traditional methodologies

Social media-based research isn’t perfect for everyone. For instance, there are certain demographic segments like seniors that are not typically active on social media. Low interest and seasonal categories won’t generate the volume or timely response needed to make informed decisions.

But for many marketers, when the clock is ticking and time is a critical factor in the equation, social media-based research is definitely worth consideration.

Need help bridging the information gap? Email our CEO, Lois Brayfield, or call 913-236-8988.