NEWS14 March 2018

Social media ‘no longer on the lunatic fringe of research’

Data analytics Finance GDPR Healthcare Impact 2018 Media News Retail

UK – Social media research is a viable, maturing form of market research and no longer resides on the "lunatic fringe", according to Jay Owens, research director at Pulsar.


Owens was speaking during a panel session at the MRS annual conference, Impact 2018. She was joined onstage by a number of research agency professionals and client marketers, the latter from Ikea, Axa and Channel 4. The three brands presented a case study each showing how they had used social media research in their marketing campaigns.

Owens reflected on the maturation of social as an insight tool. "Social media research is practically a teenage research method," she said. "Both Twitter and Facebook are about 12 years old and I've been working with them for seven or eight years."

She talked of the "evolution of social insight", but highlighted the "need to work out how to do insight better" and turn the discipline into "something that’s going to make a difference and persuade a CMO" of its efficacy.

While the benefits of data gleaned from social are of clear benefit to researchers, "answering the bigger business questions and persuading people to use the right metrics" are clearly challenges, as are issues such as data protection and incoming GDPR legislation.

Ikea’s Agnes Gawel, who heads up digital performance at the Swedish furniture retailer, talked about how the group employed its bespoke Eva tool, "We learn so much from social media users, getting to see the company’s products in their homes," she said. "They can then use the tool to "analyse engagement and popularity, which then influences our communications and even our products".

Social imaging helped Ikea "uncover new areas", "understand how people live at home" and by analysing images, establish what content people find most engaging.

Social media engagement is also helping players in insurance. Emma Crowle, senior insight manager at Axa Global Healthcare, talked about how the company thought about social as "the spark that ran through marketing activity, helping us delivery marketing more effectively". A recent campaign led to a 13% increase in quotes and 16% decrease in the cost of acquisition.

Channel 4 discussed how using social including Facebook helped it boosted the profile and usage of its Channel 4 News video channel. The campaign was not just a "numbers game" for viewers, but a means of proving its viability as a public service broadcaster.