Tagged: social media

Four Reasons Why Social Media Listening Is Not Research

By Julie Schwartz, ITSMA and Laura Patterson, VEM

We recently completed a three-city road show to deliver the results from the 2012 ITSMA/VEM marketing Performance Management Study: The Path to Better Marketing Results. A question that came up during the discussion in all three cities was this, “Do I need to do customer research when I have access to so much social media and web data?”

We hate to break it to you, but YES! Social media listening is not research. That’s because social media listening:

  1. Doesn’t ask the questions you want to ask
  2. Doesn’t come up with a hypothesis and get the data to support (or refute!) your hypothesis
  3. Doesn’t comprise a representative sample
  4. Doesn’t tell you what might happen in the future; rather, it’s a window into the past

Sentiment analysis, content analysis, and Twitter search are not the same as doing research. Don’t get us wrong; listening is definitely good and you can learn a lot from hearing what your critics and supporters say about you. However, social media listening is not the same as identifying the questions you want to ask and getting the answers. Relying on the voice of the customer as it is expressed online is a reactive, rather than proactive, approach. Further, social media does not necessarily offer a representative sample. Therefore, how valid and reliable are the results? 

While Social media listening cannot replace the rigor of the traditional scientific method, it can still play a role in customer research. Social media can help:

  • Provide qualitative insights. Many companies have successfully used crowdsourcing and targeted online communities to garner insights into customer wants and needs.
  • Reveal unmet needs. Further, the qualitative nature of social media enables listeners to uncover potential unmet needs and learn things they never thought to ask about.
  • Test ideas in real time. Once choices have been narrowed down, floating trial balloons on a social media network or community can offer immediate feedback.
  • Collect data. And there is nothing to stop market researchers from using a social media-based data collection tool within the rigors of a well-designed study.

ITSMA’s How Buyers Consume research shows that the market for complex B2B solutions has bifurcated into B2B social buyers and traditional buyers. We now have a business generation gap. Younger, B2B social buyers are online participating in blog and community conversations, yet there remains a still-large contingent of more traditional buyers. Companies have to be relevant to both audiences, and research—the proactive, objective, scientific kind—is an excellent way to gain meaningful, relevant insights into different market and customer segments.

The bottom line is this:  Social media listening, although an important tool, is not going to give you the insights into customer behavior that you need to innovate and gain competitive advantage. With social media listening, you’ll know exactly what your competitors know. Nothing more.

Today’s marketers need to remember that one of their primary jobs is to provide the rest of the company with a window into the customer. This takes research.  Marketers need to reexamine their priorities and determine how they can best allocate their resources to retain and grow their business with existing customers and provide deeper insights into buyer behavior.  Social media listening is but one view of the customer and will not provide this insight. Social Media listening does not replace research.


Meetup.com: The Unsocial Social Company

This is a typical customer service complaint story. The shocker (at least to me) is that it is a story about a social networking company that ought to know better.

Is it really possible that company with this mission could suck this badly at customer service?

Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.

Please indulge me—I need to vent. Besides, I told them I would blog about my experience and I don’t want that to be a idle threat. I’ll be quick about it.

First some background: I am the head organizer of a local running club. We train hard for 26 weeks with the goal of doing the Disney Half or Full Marathon or another winter marathon. We meet every Saturday for a long run and do speed work or hills during the week. The other 26 weeks of the year we plan weekly social runs and participate in community races to raise money for charities. This is my sixth year as a member of the club. As the new organizer, I thought it would be great to get the running club up on Meetup.com to attract new members and expand our reach. So I did.

Only, two days later they took it down and sent me this message:

Your Meetup Group, was brought to our attention as specifically promoting a one-time event, which is not in compliance with our Terms of Service.

Meetup’s mission is to revitalize long-lasting local community and help people around the world self-organize, and the Meetup platform is intended for groups that will help further this mission.

As a result of our inquiry, we’ve closed your Meetup Group and refunded your Organizer Dues.

In the Terms of Service, Meetup reserves the right to remove members, groups and content if the platform is used in a way that is inappropriate.

For more information, you can review the Terms of Service here: http://www.meetup.com/terms/


Meetup HQ

Did Mr. and Mrs. HQ actually name their first born “Meetup”?? And exactly which Term of Service did I violate? How was my group or content inappropriate? How is my group promoting a one-time event? Why did they deactivate my group without even giving me a chance to explain or fix it?

They didn’t tell me. So I sent Meetup HQ an email further explaining my running club and asking why it was deactivated.

Here’s the next response:

Hello Julie,

In preparing a Group for its announcement to the community, it’s important that a Group’s intent be clear to members of the community who will receive that announcement and be invited to take a look and decide whether or not they’d like to join.

Otherwise, members may believe that the Group is not truly committed to fostering a long-lasting, local community.

I’m afraid that your Meetup Group will not be reinstated;  however, if you would like to start a new Meetup Group, please review the Terms of Service for clarification:


If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reply to this message.


Meetup HQ

Huh? Well, at least this time Meetup HQ addressed me by name. But I still don’t know what I did wrong and they have invited me to spend another 2 hours setting up my group, possibly making the same mistake, and once again being deactivated! And of course, I could always read the legal mumbo jumbo again. THAT should clear things up for me.

Since I was tired of corresponding with an automated email system, I went to the meetup.com website to find the “contact us” info—only there is none. There are lots of photos of the employees (so there are real people behind that automated customer support machine) and clever paragraphs about what the employees do and their little personal quirks, but there is no way to contact them. I can read their blogs or follow them on Twitter, but there is not an email address or phone number to be found on the entire website. The communication is one-way only. They can broadcast to me but I can’t contact them.

Luckily there is a physical address buried in those Terms of Service! (Good thing I read them as instructed.) So I sent the CEO and founder a snail-mail letter (don’t worry—I cc’d Meetup HQ to keep the automated email system in the loop). I’ll let you know if I hear back.

Don’t hold your breath.

If ever a company needed to learn to listen to the voice of the customer, this one does. Perhaps Meetup.com wants to hire ITSMA to implement a Net Promoter Score (NPS) program? They desperately need one. I am NPS certified and more than ready to help. Hear that Scott Heiferman?