Finding out if people are talking about you is quite difficult in the offline world, but almost effortless online. Rather than having to conduct real-world surveys and interviews, in the digital world you can simply “listen” to the conversation happening about you.
Keywords—the foundation to categorizing and indexing the web—make it simple to track conversations taking place online. Customers don’t always use channels designated by a company to talk about that organization, but the good news is that the internet makes it easy for a company to identify and use the channels that customers have selected.
Online tools allow a company to track mentions of itself, its staff, its products, its industry, and its competitors—anything else that is relevant. This is called online monitoring or online listening; you are simply using digital tools to find and tap in to existing conversations. The tool then gathers and collates all the mentions it finds, so that you can analyze the data for insights.
Typically, searches include the following main focus areas:
· brand name
· key products
· key personnel (names, job titles, etc.)
· key campaigns and activities
· brand names
· product launches
· website updates
· job vacancies
· key people
There are four different types of searches you can perform to track relevant brand keywords. Each modifies the specific type of data collected and aims to improve the quality and depth of the data you gather.
The four operators are as follows:
· broad match—e.g. Apple Computers. This is when any of or all words must be found in the mention.
· direct match—e.g. “Apple Computers.” This is denoted by quotation marks and dictates that the tool should find mentions only where the phrase appears complete and in order in the content.
· inclusive match—e.g. Apple + computers. This is denoted by a plus sign directly before a word or phrase. This will direct the tool to search for any mention that contains both Apple and computers, although not necessarily in that order.
· exclusive match—e.g. Apple – fruit. This is denoted by a minus sign directly before a word or phrase. This will instruct the tool to include only mentions that contain the first word or phrase but not when the second word is also in the same mention.
Combinations of these four types of searches (operators) can be used to improve accuracy. For example: “Apple Computers” + “steve jobs” – fruit.
Applying this theory to the groupings above, some keywords used for Apple might be:
· “Apple computers”
· Apple + Macbook, “iPod nano”, “Macbook Air”, “iTunes” + music – radio
· “Steve Jobs”
· “Consumer Electronics Show” + “Las Vegas”
It is also important to track common misspellings, all related companies and all related websites. Tracking the names of people key to a company can highlight potential brand attacks, or can demonstrate new areas of outreach for a company.
Brand names, employee names, product names and even competitor names are not unique. To save yourself from monitoring too much, identify keywords that will indicate that a post has nothing to do with your company, and exclude those in your searches.
For example, apple could refer to a consumer electronics company, or it could appear in a post about the health benefits of fruit. Finding keywords that will indicate context can help to save time. So, you could exclusive-match words such as fruit, tasty and Granny Smith.
Thankfully, online listening does not entail hourly searches on your favourite search engine to see what conversations are taking place online. There are many different tools that monitor the web, and supply the results via email alerts or RSS feeds or a web dashboard.
Google has several bespoke search services and periodically adds more to the list. With the services below, an RSS feed is available for the search (Google Alerts sends weekly or daily emails with updates), so that all updates can be available through a feed reader:
· Google Alerts will send an email when the keyword is used in either a credible news item or a blog post.
· Google News searches all news items for mentions of a keyword.
· Google Blog Search searches all blog posts for mentions of a keyword.
· Google Patent Search allows you to keep track of all filings related to an industry, and searches can be done to see if there are patent filings which might infringe on other patents.
· Google Video Search relies on the data that have been added to describe a video, and will return results based on keyword matches.
There are several search engines that focus solely on tracking blogs, news, and other social media, and can provide trends for searches. In addition to providing regular updates of new postings, these search engines can also provide an overview over a certain period of time.
· Technorati tracks blogs and tagged social media.
· Socialbakers provides a series of social media listening options.
· On Flickr, RSS updates for searches on a particular keyword will reveal when a brand name has been used in tagging a photo.
· With Delicious, an RSS feed can be created for URLs tagged with keywords, or for new bookmarking of a URL.
In addition to these mostly free tools, there are also a number of premium paid tools available to make the process easier and more robust. See the section Tools of the Trade below for more suggestions.
Listening is the first step to getting involved in the conversation surrounding a company. Using search tools and RSS feeds means that information can be accessed quickly and in one place, without the need to visit hundreds of websites. Social media engagement is often the next step in keeping these customers engaged.
There are various tools available to the online researcher for conducting personal interviews, such as private chat rooms or video calling. The internet can connect a researcher with many people around the world and make it possible to conduct interviews with more anonymity, should respondents require it.
Taking its cue from offline ethnography, online ethnography requires researchers to immerse themselves in a particular environment. In this way insights can be gathered that might not have been attainable from a direct interview. However, they do depend more heavily on the ethnographer’s interpretation and are therefore subjective.
Although online communities are a valuable resource for secondary research, communities can also provide primary data. General Motors’ Fast Lane blog is an example of an online research community that helps gather research data. The blog can be used as a means to elicit feedback to a particular research problem. This is qualitative data that can aid the company in exploring their research problem further. In many cases, social media can be used to gather insight about a brand or customer experience. It is important to remember, however, that a representative sample is necessary for making solid conclusions.
When developing websites and online applications, usability testing is a vital process that will ensure the website or application is able to meet consumers’ needs. Listening labs involve setting up a testing environment where a consumer is observed using a website or application.
Conversion optimisation aims to determine the factors of an advert, website or web page that can be improved in order to convert customers more effectively. From search adverts to email subject lines and shopping cart design, tests can be set up to determine what variables are affecting the conversion rate.
As the researcher, you know what’s in it for you when sending out a survey: you will receive valuable insights that will aid in making business decisions. But what is in it for the respondents?
According to Survey Monkey, the ways in which the surveys are administered play a role in response rates, and these can be relative (University of Texas, 2011):
· mail—50 percent adequate; 60 to 70 percent good to very good
· phone—80 percent good
· email—40 percent average; 50 to 60 percent good to very good;
· online—30 percent average
· classroom pager—50+ percent good
· face to face—80 to 85 percent good
Response rates can be improved by offering respondents an incentive for participating in the research, such as a chance to win a grand prize, a discount or special offer for every respondent, or even the knowledge that they are improving a product or service that they care about.
Some researchers feel that monetary incentives are not always a good thing. Some respondents may feel that they need to give “good” or “correct” answers that may bias your results. Alternatively, you may attract respondents who are in it just for the reward. One approach could be to run the survey with no incentive, with the option of offering one if responses are limited.
Designing the survey to assure respondents of the minimal time commitment and their privacy can also help to increase responses.
With all research, there is a given amount of error to deal with. Bias may arise during surveys and focus groups (e.g.,interviewers leading the respondents) or be present in the design and wording of the questions themselves. There could be sample errors or respondent errors. Using the internet to administer surveys removes the bias that may arise from an interviewer. However, with no interviewer to explain questions, there is potential for greater respondent error. This is why survey design is so important, and why it is crucial to test and run pilots of the survey before going live.
Respondent errors also arise when respondents become too familiar with the survey process. The general industry standard is to limit respondents to being interviewed once every six months.
Sample error is a fact of market research. Some people are just not interested, nor will they ever be interested, in taking part in research. Are these people fundamentally different from those who do? Is there a way of finding out? To some extent, web analytics, which track the behavior of all visitors to your website, can be useful in this determination.
When conducting online research, it is crucial to understand who is in the target market and what the best way to reach that target market is. Web surveys can exclude groups of people due to access or ability. It is vital to determine if is this is acceptable to the survey, and to use other means of capturing data if not.
Regular research is an important part of any business’s growth strategy, but it can be tough to justify the budget necessary for research without knowing the benefit. Conducting research can cost little more than an employee’s work hours, depending on his or her skills, or it can be an expensive exercise involving external experts. Deciding where your business needs are on the investment scale depends on the depth of the research required and the expected growth the business. When embarking on a research initiative, the cost to benefit ratio should be determined.
Testing should be an ongoing feature of any digital marketing activity. Tracking is a characteristic of most digital marketing, which allows for constant testing of the most basic hypothesis: is this campaign successful in reaching the goals of the business?
The following market research can be helpful for those in the industry. The list below is divided according to the tool’s function:
· Creating and managing online surveys
· Kwik Surveys:
· Google Forms: accessed through Google Drive
· Qualaroo Insights (unique real-time offering):
· Split test calculator—User Effect, LLC
· Sample size calculator—Rogerwimmer.com
· Internet Usage World Stats—Internetworldstats.com
· Google Think
· Silverback usability testing software
· Mobile-based survey tools
· Pondering Panda
· Instant Africa
· Ideo Method Cards app (ideas for qualitative research)
· Premium Online Monitoring Tools
· SalesForce Marketing Cloud
Market researchers are increasingly turning to online tools in their research processes. The internet allows for research at a far lower cost; it can also more easily cross geographic boundaries and can speed up the research process.
This is not to say there are not downsides. While the internet makes it possible to reach a far larger group of people without the cost of facilitators, this does come with some challenges. For example, you cannot control the environments in which information is being gathered. For an online sample, it’s important to focus on getting the correct number of people to make your study statistically viable. If your questions are not carefully drafted, confusing questions could lead to answers that are flawed or not relevant. Additionally, online incentives could lead to answers that are not truthful, meaning that the value of the data could be questionable.
The value of internet research should by no means be discounted, but it is important to consider the nature of the study carefully, and interrogate the validity and legitimacy of the data as a valid representation. Data is meaningful only if it is representative, so make sure to establish goals and realistic expectations for your research.
The Rocking the Daisies music festival used online monitoring to measure return on investment (ROI) for sponsors and unearthed accurate insights to create a better festival experience.
Rocking the Daisies is a South African music festival that takes place every October in Darling in the Western Cape. For festival organizers, measuring the success of the event is crucial to the planning process for the next one. They ask questions such as, How do we prove that the event is increasing in popularity? and How do we prove that this year’s festival is more successful than last year’s?
The problem is that measurement of sponsored events is challenging, as attendees are often unwilling to interrupt their experience to respond to research questionnaires, and research conducted after the experience loses its impetus and accuracy.
Enter BrandsEye, an online monitoring tool that captures organic conversations in real time across multiple online platforms, offered insight for both organizers and sponsors. BrandsEye also offered a range of metrics used to track festival performance.
For two consecutive years, event organizers used BrandsEye to track online conversation before, during and after the festival. As a result, they could understand the festival audience’s needs and preferences, garner insights in order to answer the most pressing questions around the festival’s success, identify new commercial opportunities, and assist in assessing ROI for sponsors.
For a festival this large, online conversation across social media, blogs, forums, press, and various other platforms begins six months (or more) before the event. For the 2012 festival, BrandsEye began its tracking around May, and slowly watched the volumes of online conversation increase as the festival approached.
All data collected during the period was processed and displayed on BrandsEye’s customized measurement dashboards, which automatically updated in real time. Additionally, users could apply filters to explore the data and mine them for insights.
This table outlines some of the metrics used to measure the Rocking the Daisies festival.
|Rocking the Daisies Market Research|
|Volume of conversation||7,748||14,979|
|Opportunities to see||8,412,530||14,602,550|
|Advert value equivalent*||1,949,024||3,397,916|
|* The amount which would be spent on online advertising for the same exposure.|
Understanding your market is the foundation of every marketing activity, online or off. If you don’t know who you’re speaking to, or what your audience cares about, it’s unlikely that your message will resonate with them.
Market research will define the content you create in your content marketing strategy, which naturally affects channels like email marketing, web writing, SEO and online advertising. It helps you find your audiences on social channels by indicating where they spend most of their time, and how they like interacting with your brand. It also helps you meet their needs by defining the touchpoints they expect from your brand, especially when it comes to creating web and mobile channels.
The more data you can gather about your audience, the better you will be able to optimize and improve your marketing efforts: market research is an excellent supplement to the quantitative data you can gather through data analytics.
Market research means gathering and analyzing data in order to gain consumer insights, understand a market and make business decisions. Information can be gathered about customers, competitors and the market.
Research can be conducted based on secondary data, which refers to information or data that is already published, or based on primary data, which is data gathered specifically for a particular research problem.
Research can also be qualitative or quantitative. The internet provides the tools for gathering qualitative data, while online tools such as surveys and web analytics packages are ideal for gathering quantitative data.
University of Texas at Austin. (2011). Assess teaching: Response rates. Retrieved from http://www.utexas.edu/academic/ctl/assessment/iar/teaching/gather/method/survey-Response.php