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What I learned from conversations with 15 Research Directors

I’ve just had one of my favourite days of the year.

Hands down.

Every year we go to the Insight Forum, run by the good people at Richmond Events.

For most people, it would be a complete nightmare. A whole day of 30-minute meetings with complete strangers.

But for me, I can’t get enough.

It gives me a chance to do what I love, talking to people about their work.

Every year I meet some amazing, truly capable people – what’s not to like?

One of the things I always ask is about how they use social data within their work. So, what did we learn from all these meetings?

  • Preconceptions: the overall sense was that the value of social listening is quite limited for research. However, when we dug into this a bit more, the consensus was that the data has value – but that current tools and skills don’t do it justice. Many have had poor experiences with listening vendors where results were too superficial.
  • Awareness: almost everyone we spoke with had a limited idea of what can be done with social data. They tended to see it as a tool for marketing and campaign evaluation, rather than a tool that can help inform decision-making across strategy, creativity and innovation.
  • Frustration: for those who had used social listening many were frustrated by trying to get the data in the right position to analyse properly. It’s either the 30,000ft view or a collection of individual comments. They were craving the Goldilocks approach – something not too broad and not too narrow. Something that meaningfully synthesised the data, enabling them to find the insight.
  • Blind spots: we found a general lack of awareness about the range and types of social media platforms – and how the data differs across each. It tends to be all lumped together. For example, when we asked about TikTok, we saw a lot of blank faces. Which I completely understand. I felt the same way until we started really taking it seriously last year. However, not knowing about a platform doesn’t stop it being driving demand and behaviour in your market.
  • Excitement: despite these barriers, everyone was excited to find out what was possible. There was a real sense of wanting to know more – to start to build the right skills, tools and capabilities.
  • Next steps: making a start can be daunting. Most of the people we spoke to planned to take it slow, to involve other members of their team, to look at best practices and example case studies. Others wanted help scoping out what’s possible.

So, what was my main take-away after meeting 15 Research Directors? That things are changing, slowly, but irrevocably. More and more, they accept the inherent value of social data and are excited about the next step.

We love helping people understand the potential of social data and how it can help people think across a wide range of organisational challenges. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

By: Jeremy Hollow

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