Communication and marketing have changed with the exponential growth of social media, and so has research. It’s changing the way we engage with consumers and, consequently, how we conduct research. Consumers are no longer just “interviewees”; they have become “opinionators.” They have shifted from being spectators to actors. Consumers now express their opinions and create content on multiple platforms, whether they are social media or other outlets. As researchers, we capture this opinion, compile, structure, analyze, and turn it into valuable knowledge for brands.
Every day, new tools, and platforms for tracking consumers on the internet are emerging. They are all designed to capture the information consumers share on social media, blogs, microblogs, co-creation platforms, social bookmarking, discussion forums, product reviews, video, and photo sharing, and so on.
This brings to mind the example of Alice in Wonderland:
“Alice looked round her in great surprise. ‘Why, I do believe we’ve been under this tree the whole time! Everything’s just as it was!’
‘Of course, it is,’ said the Queen, ‘what would you have it?’
‘Well, in our country,’ said Alice, still panting a little, ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else – if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.’
‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen. ‘Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.'”
– Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
The Red Queen Effect illustrates the reality of today’s marketing landscape. Brands are constantly moving, some very rapidly, and the feeling is that they are not moving fast enough because new categories, products, marketing and communication actions, or even new social media platforms emerge every day, captivating consumers, buyers, and ourselves. However, this is only half the truth. The endogamy of those of us who often participate in this game makes us believe that if we are not hyperactive, we are irrelevant. The internet has accelerated and multiplied this feeling, especially within social media. Yet, experience shows that taking a step in the online world without prior study and analysis leads to failure.
Before hyperactivity on the internet and social media, and being present just for the sake of it, we need a strategy and an action plan online that aligns with communication objectives and marketing strategies.
The Relevance of Market Research in Marketing Actions
The key to all this, as always, lies in the analysis of information. Until now, the solutions offered have been more focused on obtaining information rather than analyzing it. Although at this early stage of internet analytics, sources (in terms of number and quality) may make a difference in the very near future, the true differential will lie in analysis. And translating this information + analysis into valuable knowledge for brands, as action without measurement is meaningless.
If a brand correctly interprets this knowledge, it has the best starting point to define, redefine, or fine-tune its communication and marketing actions, not only online but also offline because no one doubts that the amplification effect of the internet also affects offline buyers (not just online).
As a final reflection, shouldn’t we talk about “thinking” instead of “knowledge”? The social pressure exerted by the internet, and specifically social media, forces brands to behave more responsibly. Brands must focus on thinking rather than just knowing.