Fat Is Not Bad! Market Research Insights from Social Data

Businesses use market research to gain perspective of their customer and anticipate user needs. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, including traditional market research methods, focus groups, individual interviews and even surveys. Companies try very hard to understand and listen what the public have on their minds.
It’s within the research that companies can investigate all the available data on subjects, not just around their own named brands, products, or campaigns. It’s here that teams can identify what the wider market, competitors, or even social or cultural trends among consumers can inform and enlighten business strategy.
Despite all of these data sources, there is often still a gap in what consumers need and what organisations provide. How can they fill that space? Every minute, there are conversations happening about brands, competitors, industries and social issues. All of this results in a flood of information that needs to be compiled, sorted and categorized for optimal interpretation. Within each conversation, there may be valuable and strategic ideas. These conversations are not happening behind closed doors, it are very public and visible located in the world of social media. While we know where the information lies, we must learn the best way to use it.

Using Online Data for Market Research 

There is a need for all market research activities to just not only skim the surface of social data, but to dive deep. It is no longer enough for organisations to find out the sentiment or brand mentions. Understanding audiences involves comprehensive research and scanning to find out consumer trends, emotions and behavioural drivers. For any market research activity that companies embark, it is important to understand that it is more important than ever to have the means to conduct accurate research easily and effectively, and furthermore to share insights.
For example, in the food industry there has been a great deal of commercial as well as social debate on what food is healthy and what is not. There has been a lot of factors contributing to this debate with respect to health, obesity, diabetes etc… and also about the implications fatty foods on general health.
There are mixed opinions among the public regarding the issue where there is also a debate that not all fatty foods are unhealthy. Whether it’s on social media web sites, health blogs, nutrition forums, there is a lot of conversation around this topic. In an article on Express, doctors say that the obsession with a low-fat  or a fat free diet has drastically increased the risk of heart ailments. A recent study in Journal of American Medical Association study showed that a “low fat” diet showed the greatest drop in energy expenditure and increased insulin resistance – which is a precursor to diabetes.
An analysis from Crimson Hexagon’s social monitoring platform ForSight™ shows that there is a lot of discussion regarding this fatty food and its implications. From the image below, it can be seen that even though there is a lot of complexity involved in the type of conversation online in this subject, there is still a very high negative sentiment towards fatty food.
fatty_foods_sentiment_11 (1)
A more detailed analysis on the conversation around fatty food, revealed an interesting fact. There are mainly two themes that emerge among users regarding fatty foods: ‘lifecasting’ of personal behaviour, and more general, wider, views and opinions.  Here we see both themes quantified together. Users speak or share knowledge about the effects of fatty food, and not their personal experience. 
The debate of fatty foods, and its implication has been constantly present in the social    as well as commercial industry. However the social volumes volumes have been decreasing across over the years. It is also interesting to see that the trend was more discussion of wider topics, less personal ‘lifecasting’ about food and diet.
A deeper understanding of conversation revealed that even though the majority feel that fatty foods are bad for health, conversations with two clear categories can be found which supports the consumption of fatty foods : avoiding skipping meals to prevent the body storing fat, and the existence of ‘fat burning foods’.


Sampling and Key Markets

Just like traditional market research methods, with social media insights it is possible to look more specifically at groups of relevant or influential people.  For example, in the food industry, parents, and especially mums, are a key group, as one of the main food-buyers for families.
So, we can run similar text analysis looking for opinions on fatty foods, among people writing on the blogs and forums most applicable to that group: for example Netmums.com, Mumsnet and others. With the help of Forsight, we can understand and decipher the type of language used by mothers, who are very influential for marketers, since they are the food-buyers. It can be seen that even though there are studies showing fatty foods are not actually as harmful as it was though, there is a very high negativity towards fatty foods and also the language is different compared to the general internet users.
Understanding of the market is important for any organisation. Understanding market misconceptions can be even more crucial when looking to gain a competitive edge within that market. 
In the food industry, we can see that there is a more complex conversation here, than simply ‘fatty food is always bad’. To understand this, and identify the more nuanced strands of conversation, we need to take a market-research approach, and use methods and software that can pick up on such aspects of the conversation.  Only in this way can we truly understand and mirror the real-world situation.
Market research, once the preserve of focus groups, surveys, and small samples, has been joined by technologies allowing access to bigger, unsolicited data that not only helps in uncovering audience trends, but also sentiment and opinion which can help companies and brands jump ahead their competition. By fishing through all these available data, companies have the ability to gain a very strong competitive advantage over others.
For additional insight into consumer behavior, please review our blog.

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