Social Research

Consumers are leaving behind an ever-increasing trail of data about their purchase habits, behaviours and even their motivations.

Technology makes collating this data easier than ever before.

Despite this, insights remain as elusive as ever.

At The Social Partners, we deploy a range of innovative quantitative and qualitative methodologies and techniques to better understand markets, brands and audiences.

Applying a multi-method data approach ensures our understanding isn’t limited to information that’s either solicited by asking questions or unprompted (such as social data).

Through a deep understanding of our clients, their market and how their target audience behaves in different social contexts and settings, we’re able to uncover previously unrevealed insights and provide strategic recommendations grounded in rigorous research.

We apply quantitative and qualitative rigour to large social datasets to derive insights from unprompted conversations.

A survey effectively captures our attempt to recollect our past behaviour and, as studies have shown, we can be rather poor at reflecting on the reasons behind the decisions we’ve made.

We believe that one of the advantages of using social media to examine opinions is that we’re able to capture views expressed in the moment, which are less likely to suffer from any post-rationalisation.

At The Social Partners, we’re tool agnostic and not wedded to using a single monitoring provider, enabling us to draw on a range of technologies.

We also believe the true value in social media research lies in qualitatively analysing the conversations. The structured data delivered by the tool can provide the what, where and when, but not the how or the why.

Our team of experienced researchers apply both quantitative and qualitative rigour to huge datasets to uncover previously unrevealed insights.

This requires both knowledge of the client and a strong understanding of how and why people use different social networks to share information and their opinions.

We use social media research to:

  • Understand consumer and public opinion;
  • Inform planning or strategy;
  • Assess the effectiveness of campaigns;
  • Benchmark brand perceptions; and
  • Answer specific questions.

This helps us to determine the rational and the emotional drivers of advocacy, enabling us to better understand the underlying reasons behind brand preference.

Understand the relative influence of different types of social behaviour (both online and WOM) on your consumers’ brand beliefs and purchase decisions.

In the days of brand-driven information (ads, leaflets, brochures) we used standardised sales funnels to plan messaging and activities against the various states of behaviour consumers followed on their journey towards a purchase.

Universal adoption of the internet, and the accompanying rise of social networks, has made it easier for consumers to access customer-driven information (blogs, forums, reviews, ratings) resulting in more complex, non-linear consumer purchase journeys.

In the absence of a clear understanding of how social behaviour influences consumer purchasing decisions, most brands have pursued ‘mass noise’ strategies, hoping to use social channels to spread their message to as many people as possible.

As a result ‘impressions’, ‘likes’ and ‘engagements’ have become the prevalent social metrics.

The value of these measures is difficult to understand in terms of leads, sales and spend and, despite considerable investment, there is a notable lack of social ROI case studies.

Our Social Path-to-Purchase model provides an audited map of social behaviours with detailed information about the relative influence of different types of social behaviour (both online and WOM) on consumer brand beliefs and purchase decisions.

We cluster behaviour into four social influencer categories (Grassroots, Experts, Crowd and Inner Circle) and identify their impact on three key purchase journey states (Discovery, Research and Decisioning).

Using the insights derived from our model enables marketing teams to develop more targeted strategies and activities focused on the phases of the consumer buying journey where social has most influence, leading to improved campaign performance.

The TSP Performance Framework ladders up from the soft metrics, such as reach and engagement, to the harder metrics, like sales and ultimately ROI.

Our clients have different business objectives so we tailor these by priority.

It enables us to align KPIs (what’s possible to measure) against the strategic objectives (what we aim to achieve).

We use a combination of tools, including Brandwatch, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics, to look at the soft, social metrics (‘cold social’).

They allow us to measure campaign and activity performance in order to optimise our approach in real-time.

At a granular level, this could mean boosting a post that’s performing well organically, while more broadly we can track effectiveness by aiming to reduce cost per impression or engagement.

Brand metrics (‘warm social’) are a better measure of long-term impact.

We track these via surveys, enabling us to pinpoint shifts in metrics like NPS and brand affinity scores to feed into strategy and better understand the impact we’re having on the communities we manage.

Ultimately, however, the key measures we’re aiming to grow are revenue based (‘hot social’).

Tracking the average spend of our fans from the point at which they join our communities enables us to establish the incremental value delivered by social.

Social + advocacy = ROI.

Our research with Crowd DNA revealed that social networks have fundamentally changed WOM behaviour, identifying six new nodes of influencer in the process.

Before online and social media, WOM was largely dependent on individuals being in the right place at the right time. It was also linear, slow to spread, and relied on opportunistic sharing and key individuals to share information. It was attributed to two main factors: belonging and self-esteem.

We worked with research agency Crowd DNA to explore whether the rapid rise of social networks had changed existing WOM models via an extensive literature review, a series of focus groups and a month-long online community.

We tested the theories that emerged via a series of network audits: following the chain of WOM recommendations and sharing within specific networks of friends, family and colleagues.

We discovered WOM was now faster, unmediated, and non-linear, with individuals able to connect across a wider variety of networks.

Status is now a key factor in sharing information.

We have moved from a deferral to a referral society.

Through our research, we identified six new nodes of influencer who source, surface and share stories: In & Out Narcissists, Expert Resources, Expert Broadcasters. Temporary Expert, Oversharers, and Feeders.

Narcissists and Experts used to be conversation firestarters in old WOM models but now act as a ‘go to’ resource.

Expert Broadcasters, Temporary Experts and Oversharers provide the content, velocity, validity and reach for most brand WOM.

Feeders deliver the WOM long tail: recycling and regenerating brand stories.

Via a proprietary survey we developed with Crowd DNA, we are able to identify a brand’s influencers and then map them against the different nodes, identifying how and why they change nodes in specific contexts.

This allows us to build bespoke content and contact strategies around the emotional and rational drivers that trigger their social behaviour.

We also focus the investment on influencer groups and decisioning stages with the greatest impact on sales outcomes.

Understand who your influencers are both online and offline.

We have developed proprietary research models to identify who the influencers are within social and WOM.

We identify people who are ACTIVE:

Ahead: to the fore in adoption & ahead of the mainstream

Connected: range & frequency of connections

Travellers: accumulating knowledge & experience

Information hungry: seeking out & exchanging information

Vocal: keen to discuss & exchange experiences

Exposed: voracious consumers of media

Identifying the most influential members of a category, market or community ensures our network outreach, influencer seeding and campaign planning is more targeted and more effective.