Social Media and Customer Satisfaction Research
This past Monday I moderated a panel of thought leaders in market research to ponder the question: “How Will Social Media Change Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty Research?” The event was sponsored by the American Marketing Association, and included participants from GfK, Maritz, MARC, SAS, Market Tools, and Versta Research.
One of the fascinating insights to emerge from our discussion was that social media is not only a new channel of information and data, but that it is fundamentally different from previous channels of data. As such, it opens up new areas of inquiry for our efforts. What is that fundamental difference? It is the networked nature of social media. As we code and tabulate people’s comments on social media as part of our CS&L research, potentially we have access to the networks of each person whose comments we are analyzing. We can know how many people are reading each comment, we can measure how strong and extensive the network of influence is, where it overlaps important segments of customers, and so on.
The implications of this are huge. The impact of loyalty among one’s best customers can now be defined not only in terms of how much they buy and how “sticky” they are, but also in terms of their influence among other customers and prospects. Smart CS&L research will not count everyone’s opinion the same, but will give more weight to those occupying central nodes of critical networks. There are implications for sampling as well. Is true random sampling necessary, or can “networked” sampling provided sufficient entry points that give visibility into the full population of customers?
In my view, this sort of network analysis will bring about a seismic shift in CS&L research, though not all panelists agreed. We were split about 50/50 on whether social media constitutes just one more channel of data to integrate, bringing greater precision to what we’ve always done, or whether it represents a more radical departure. A full report of our panel’s deliberations will be presented in the October 2010 issue of Marketing News, the AMA’s monthly magazine.
The stimulating discussion among panelists also highlighted the importance of remembering that good CS&L research requires ongoing thoughtfulness, intelligence, and curiosity. New tools and technologies are often easy to install, but their value is in offering new opportunities to bring deeper understanding and analysis to research.
Stay tuned – we’ll provide a closer look at some of those opportunities for better research (and reprints upon request) when the AMA publishes its report this fall.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.