Social Media Provides Insights That Search Engines Just Can’t

When it comes to investigating emotive topics, social media is an insightful channel for a business to undertake research in. It’s a forum that presents many sides of an argument that allows researchers to isolate specific viewpoints, quantify sentiment and identify influencers within the debate but also gain a better understanding of the consumers taking part
In the UK currently there is intense speculation surrounding the future course of the country’s National Health Service (NHS). I myself wanted to investigate the viewpoints of the discussion but instead of just “googling it”, I decided to use the social channel to discover the real opinions of those directly affected by the service’s future. Companies too, should look to supplement their research with this channel and not rely so heavily on the more traditional resources like using focus groups or search engines.
As a researcher, you may want to conduct research around a topic by reading newspaper articles or website pages but why would you limit yourself to the views of the journalists? With social it is possible to analyse the views of thousands of consumers.
The problem with conducting a survey or focus group is two fold. Firstly, it takes time – and in this era of digital time is something a business can rarely afford. Secondly, there could be an element of bias towards the methods, that in someway the results may be skewed. With social, analysis is obtained on a daily basis and the opinions given are generally unsolicited – social is the consumer’s platform where they can express their views.
Weneedtotalkaboutjeremy
On Sunday 26th July a debate took place on Twitter under the hashtag #weneedtotalkaboutjeremy. Jeremy refers to the secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt. Around 40,000 conversations participated in the debate – plenty of data to get stuck into!
Isolating conversation topics around specific stakeholders
Over 40,000 posts is a lot and the chances are that all of them will be useful in finding the insights that one may want.
By filtering the results to isolate discussions around those working in the NHS, we can identify popular topics of discussion for the specific group of stakeholders.
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Understanding which viewpoints resonate most
Social media analysis allows a business to quantify which of the put forward opinions are supported most within the group. In an editorial, the editor of the newspaper, television or radio station puts forward their opinion on a matter but how can we begin to measure how much of the audience supports this?
With social, we can measure which viewpoints have been retweeted, liked and even analyse the comments added to them to understand the specific nuances of the argument.
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Two reasons why a user may retweet in this instance are;
i) to publicly agree with the statement
ii) to amplify the message to new audiences.
In both cases we can infer that these are the opinions (like that in an editorial) that have resonated highly with the engaged audience.
Understanding not just the views but the people behind them
As analysis of social data develops we can begin to obtain a layer of understanding that goes deeper than just comprehending the sides of the argument. We can begin to obtain a level of understanding around the personas of those engaging in the debate.
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In this instance we are able to delve into the community that embodies those participating in #weneedtotalkaboutjeremy.
We can learn about what multimedia (articles, photos, video) has resonated most within this community of people over the last 24 hours, 7 or 30 days. Not to mention people that are influential in this niche or what hashtags are popular. Further questions could then fuel your research like why do certain forms of media or influencers resonate with this group of people?
It is much more difficult to get this level of insight of so many different people’ views from a search engine. The beauty of social is that it is the forum where any individual can go to give their open which as a result can reveal a huge amount of untapped insight that you just simply can’t get from an internet search.

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