The Marriage of Market Research and Social Data

Market research and social data must come together to offer the most comprehensive analysis of customers, competitors, markets, and brands. Marketers have access to so much data today that it’s easy to fall into a silo marketing approach where the focus is either on market research data or social data but not the two together. However, neither type of data paints a clear picture. The trick is marrying the two in order to find the necessary clarity to make the right strategic business decisions. However, this is a relationship that needs to be nurtured if it’s going to survive the long-haul.

data analysisTraditional market research provides the data that marketers have used to make business decisions and formulate marketing strategies for a very long time. With the growth of social media, massive amounts of information and data are available for marketers to extract and analyze. Unfortunately, there is no single tool to gather and analyze that data effectively, nor is there an analysis method that provides a common set of metrics used by all brands and companies across markets and industries.

The Problem

Social data still operates like the Wild West and the sheer volume of data is overwhelming. Gathering social data isn’t the problem. Making sense of it is.

Furthermore, traditional market research isn’t a tool for instant data gratification, but executives expect social data to be acquired, digested, and analyzed in real-time. Tools constantly change, data is a moving target, but marketers must find ways to extract relevant data to create a case for making specific business decisions. It’s not an easy demand to meet consistently. As Paul Dunay of Advertising Age suggests, perhaps that’s one of the reasons why the tenure of a chief marketing officer sits around two years.

The Challenges

Marketers have two challenges — finding the right social data and understanding what that data means and how to use it. Just as it’s more challenging for traditional market research to delve into consumer emotions and perceptions of brands and products, it’s very difficult to measure sentiment, perceptions, and emotions through social data. There are few tools that are capable of correlating shares and likes on the social web to measurable sentiment data. BehaviorMatrix is trying to do it with its applied behavior analytics tools, but we’re still a long way from having the ability to dig deep.

It’s undeniable that a key player on every marketing team going forward will be the social data expert. This is the person (or people) who can analyze a constant stream of social data and turn that data into relevant and actionable information. The companies that are prepared to listen to this data and make real-time decisions related to that data are the ones that will be most successful. Flexibility is crucial to actually using social data correctly.

However, all data comes with a looming risk — interpretation. For market research and social data to effectively guide strategic decision-making, it must be interpreted correctly and without bias. Impartiality is essential but can be hard to achieve.

The Marriage

Together, this real time social data and traditional market research data provide a more detailed picture and tell a more comprehensive story than either can deliver alone. In fact, the two types of data gathering should feed off of one another. For example, social data findings could be the catalyst for formal market research and vice versa. In other words, these two types of data mining shouldn’t live separately anymore.

Stay tuned to the AYTM blog for my upcoming series about brand reputation which will discuss social data in more detail.

Image: Ulrik De Wachter

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as and She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of, an award-winning blog for business women.