Our CEO and Co-Founder, Rodolphe Barrere, explains how Social Sampling is revolutionizing the way consumer research is done in this article for Forbes.
The best businesses understand the importance of listening to their customers. Customer insights are critical in almost every aspect of a company’s operations, whether you are delivering a finished product or a service — and regardless of whether you are B2B or B2C. The Holy Grail of consumer research is finding the best (as defined by relevance and honesty, at least) respondents that can be targeted in a very niche way — and doing so in a way that meets the time constraints of sampling in today’s rapidly shifting consumer markets.
But for as fast as the world around us moves, the ways companies do research have evolved relatively slowly. Much of the research done today relies on traditional methods that are well past their prime. In the face of technological advancement and modern consumer behavior, this is a sign that consumer research has grown stagnant. Not only are they outdated in terms of the effectiveness of the channels to reach key demographics, methods such as web portals, focus groups, and live "intercept" methods are additionally challenged by today’s post-pandemic restrictions and operating procedures.
Professional research has grown to be an $80 billion industry and delivers a range of approaches to collect insights from consumers of all sorts. Surveys are among the most popular forms of research, as they can be customized to extract well-defined information from specific types of people. And everyone loves a good survey result. We see them every day in the press: how we are going to vote, what we like to eat or drink, where we want to travel, etc. The Covid-19 pandemic has made surveying even more visible, gathering insights into how this unprecedented event has changed just about every kind of behavior.
Often overlooked as a way to gain insights despite its ubiquitous use is social media. Platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter offer a trove of potential respondents (more than 4 billion worldwide) who can be very precisely targeted.
Researchers are discovering that social media is emerging as an extremely cost-effective, time-efficient, and inexpensive channel for recruiting targeted respondents and collecting data on their consumption habits and preferences. Unlike social listening, which is a relatively passive way to try and gauge consumer sentiment, social sampling is a much more proactive and precise way to extract insights and do so on a global scale.
What researchers like most is the ability to target specific niches. For example, we were recently presented with this challenge: Find people who consumed dates regularly in five different countries to forecast future consumption trends. We launched a survey via LinkedIn and Facebook in four different languages to help consultants build a consumer profile for their clients. In less than two weeks in the field, we had met (and exceeded) the quotas per country, gender, and age group to guarantee an even portrait of the consumer.
Social sampling takes into consideration consumer characteristics that matter most to researchers — whether that is where you live, what your interests are or what you have bought in the past. Response rates are better this way because participants are being surveyed on topics they actually care about.
There are many ways social media can be used for precise targeting. Top-level sampling criteria can be done by a participant's physical location (country, city, state, and even neighborhood) or by general demographic profile, such as their gender, age, income, marital status, or ethnicity. Users of social media also reveal their primary spoken language, which can be useful with multi-country surveys (per our example above). Further refinement can be achieved by targeting people by what interests, hobbies, or favorite activities that they can self-identify within their profiles. Even the device they use most often to spend time on social media is identifiable and can be useful for certain types of surveys.
Such precision allows both B2B and B2C companies to identify people who are actually buying their products or services specifically — or that identify in some way with the category the companies care about (which may include people who aren’t customers or are loyal to competitor’s brand). Because this method samples only genuinely interested respondents, it eliminates many of the pitfalls and misleading results of randomly selected survey participants that often plague focus groups and web panels.
Most survey techniques are stuck targeting people whom companies are aware of at some level — from existing customers or prospects to respondents who have gone through a highly rigorous qualification filter. Having ready access to survey them is an effective way to maintain and nurture the best customers.
But what about those who fall through the cracks — the ones who haven't purchased from you recently or that may have gone away altogether or who have never engaged with you? These segments are just as important in obtaining a well-rounded view of customer insights.
Social sampling overcomes the limitation of only targeting your most frequent and loyal customers by casting a wide net, one that still only catches the fish you care about, even if you don’t know about them,
Being embedded in the research world, we know the key to success in any survey is quality data. Gathering insights through social sampling provides direct access to qualified and precisely selected respondents, improving the quality of your data.
Getting started with a social media survey is not difficult once you have established the scope of what you want to research. The first step is identifying the characteristics of those whom you want to reach. Then, narrow the specific insight you hope to extract. By starting here, companies can develop effective surveys that get to the heart of what matters and produce the best response rates. Oftentimes, quotas can be met and top-level analysis can be achieved in a matter of days.
Interested in learning more about social sampling and how we run respondent acquisition at Potloc? Check out our public studies at potloc.com/resources, or better yet, email us today to schedule a discussion with one of our research experts: firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-Founder & CEO at Potloc
Article originally published in Forbes