Why do some reject social listening?

Looking for growth?

You could argue that the Insight team’s job is to help kick-start organic growth. It needs to help us shift thinking about what’s possible, both in terms of improving what we already do, and for extending our capability, reach and ambition.

Lucky for us that we live in exciting times. We’re entering a period of genuine change in the way we create insight. Just as the older forms of market research (surveys, focus groups etc.) are beginning to show signs of diminishing returns, new methods are emerging. And it’s the casual digitisation of everyday life that’s driving it. Alongside the usual sample-led research, we’re seeing more natural sources of data emerging: transactional, operational and social.

The promise of social

For brand and agency insight teams, the data created by social media has a unique value, one that stems from how it’s created. Traditional market research is pretty much all Q&A. Social data, on the other hand, is much more natural, it’s just a bunch of conversations between connected individuals.

The reality is that people talk differently among themselves than they do to researchers. They talk about what’s important to them, not what’s important to you.

As such, social data can reveal a different side of human life, one full of possibilities for creating customer value.

The reality of listening

“We can see the potential, but just can’t seem to make it work for us”

…is something we hear a lot.

It’s because it’s usually much easier to see the insight potential in social data, than to actually get at it.

The market’s young and dominated by Tech firms with loud voices. They tend to sell information as insight. It’s not, and here’s the crux of the problem. Many people start using social listening tools hoping to tap into a new stream of insights. What they tend to get are more indicators, some obvious and helpful, others confusing and vague.

The problem isn’t the data as such, it’s the process of turning it into insight that’s lacking. The tools themselves aren’t to blame, they do a great job at finding and getting the data. It’s just that insight is rarely an automated outcome. Rather, it’s a creative process of developing information to find non-obvious conclusions. Not the work for a dashboard.

Why do people turn to Social Learning?

There is an alternative, one favoured by particularly forward thinking brands, and progressive agencies. This is Social Learning.

Social Learning is a method for finding new insights from social data (Facebook / Twitter/ Instagram comments, online communities, forums, influencer blog posts and survey comments), in fact, anywhere people are talking about themselves and to each other.

It’s a technique that combines the data collection abilities of social listening with behavioural research techniques. It’s Human Social Analysis. It applies well-established qualitative research techniques (thematic and discourse analysis) to understand what people mean in the things they create and share on social. At scale, with speed.

This has two main benefits over research as normal:

Natural + unprompted: it removes your influence and questions from the data collection process, revealing what’s really front of mind for consumers, expressed in their own terms.

Scale + breadth: it explores the conversations of thousands of consumers, literally big qual. This gives you a confidence in the findings which is totally missing from most other qualitative research.

For those inspired by the promise of social data, but frustrated with simply Listening, Social Learning offers a viable alternative.

About us

We’re an insights agency that uses social data to help brands + their agencies find new opportunities for growth.

If that sounds good to you, drop us a line and we’ll get straight back to you. If you want to hear more stories from social, then sign up to our blog (As Heard on Social) below.

To find out how you can use social listening for better business insights, sign up to our newsletter or schedule a chat with us.

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