Social Media: More a Research/ Analytics than a Marketing Tool?

2 Sep

Social + Media + Research

Read an article yesterday about increasing apathy amongst college goers on brands’ social media marketing efforts. Add to that another from the flip side of the coin – CMOs. According to a recent study, only 15% of U.S. CMOs have been able to quantitatively prove Social’s impact!

It kind of points towards an old felt-but-not-quite-articulated hypothesis I had! At the time, I used to think that I felt this way because my business was more focussed on the use of social media for a “learning” experience, not so much an “outreach” one. And this despite the fact that marketers we spoke to almost always were interested in the lower hanging fruit, i.e., the marketing using SM. So, when we went in with a pitch that said – “hey, this is what social media can teach you about your consumer or your competitor or your brand”, they would say, “hey, can you help us make our facebook page better”! Maybe it was compounded by the fact that the consumer insights/ market research people, those that would truly benefit from this, turned up their noses at this “unconventional, unstructured, “qualitative”‘ data source and took whatever we said with a pinch of, no! scratch that – huge dollops of salt! (See my very first blog post on this question of whether social media research is fish or fowl! )

So my hypothesis was just this – that Social’s FIRST and BIGGEST benefit was as a data source for higher consumer understanding. After all, this was/ is a medium that is changing the way people talk/ behave/ share/ opine – in many cases, this reflects people’s needs/ wants/ perceptions/ attitudes/ usages/ purchases. Most importantly, it is PEER to PEER. And proactive/ not reactive. Why then would you not leverage it for classical research questions? (Sure, it applies only to that percentage of the population that is connected, but, a) that is a large number in most countries now and b) even where it isn’t, it can be used as a proxy for the relevant categories.)

Ofcourse, I don’t think we should be ready to junk Social Media as a marketing tool yet – in fact, my hypothesis notwithstanding, I do think that the world is getting more digital – and therefore, marketers have no choice but to follow their consumers – i.e., go where the consumers go – in other words, social..

So then, what causes the CMO’s disenchantment with the medium? Maybe its the inadequate/ non standardised measurement/ metrics piece – obviously, if you aren’t convinced about how you are measuring input and output, you will not be convinced of the ROI of your spend. (See my older post on KPIs for Social Media Measurement for a way towards metrics and KPIs)

What is your take? Marketing or Research? (or measurement?)

social media research (Credit: conversition.com)

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