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'Getting Real' About Social at the UK MRS Social Media Research Summit

Published by Steve Thomson March 17, 2017

At the recent Social Media Research Summit, hosted by the UK Market Research Society, one of the underlying themes of the day was integration.  Representatives from key advertisers, such as Pete Evans, Head of Research at RBS, stressed the need for insights from social listening to emerge from the social silo/bubble, and synthesise better with broader brand measures, including offline word of mouth and brand health tracking.

I presented a paper about the need for a broader perspective on what constitutes ‘social’, and for brands to measure and aim to activate real-world and dark social conversation as well as those visible via standard social listening tools.  Otherwise, there was a strong likelihood that marketing teams would fail to recognise the full value and contribution of social forces on their brands.

A key part of the paper outlined the greater impact on brands of offline and private conversation. Other contributors are noting the growing importance of dark social, too. I noted that private and offline conversations lurking under the surface are not simply larger in number – they are very different in nature. Brand performance and the nature of consumer conversation differ across channels and online listening will potentially deliver misleading insights without a real-world reality check. For example, we noted that Tesco offline buzz volumes showed different patterns to those visible online during 2016, with worrying dips in volume in Spring, but more sustained word of mouth levels during Christmas (in line with the brand’s stronger commercial performance at that time).

We also discussed the somewhat blinkered approach that some digital marketing teams have regarding the social impact of their campaigns and content.  The evidence indicates that strong social media campaigns should aim for offline as well as online amplification, and their contribution/ROI measured accordingly.

Hence we argue that best practice for brand owners to measure social performance holistically (online/public and offline/private), and ground social media insights in the broader context of how and why consumers communicate with each other (and brand directly) about brands and products.

You can download the full presentation. It includes more details on Tesco and how it’s time to “get real” about social. Enjoy!