social media listening for marketing researchSocial media listening has surpassed more traditional marketing research techniques to become the favored marketing research method among brands in the Asia-Pacific region, reveals new research from global research firm TNS.

Marketers in the region, which covers Australia, China, India, Indonesia Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand, prefer social media monitoring for both planning and to measure campaign performance, according to the Marketing Monitor study from TNS. Other market research methods include brand tracking, market share data, opinions of senior management and focus groups.

Marketers in other regions likely see a similar trend. Roughly half of American marketing executives use social media monitoring to analyze their customers, prospects and markets, according to research from eMarketer released early this year.

An Intrinsic Part of Our Lives

“It’s no secret that social has become an intrinsic part of our daily lives,” said Zoe Lawrence, digital director, Asia-Pacific for TNS, according to Marketing Mag. “The mass adoption of social provides marketers with an array of sources when it comes to developing strategies and evaluating the effectiveness of their marketing activity.”

Out of the 2,700 marketers surveyed, 43% use social media for brand communications, 49% use social media advertising to drive ecommerce, 40% use it to provide customer service and 28% use social media ‘buy’ buttons.

“With marketers using social for a range of marketing objectives, it is important that they are offering a consistent, coherent experience to the customer. Brands need to strive to break down the siloes in their organizations to ensure that they are realizing the potential positive impact that an aligned, well-executed social strategy can deliver,” says Lawrence.

Superior Aspects of Social Media Analytics

Researchers and marketers have been predicting that that social media listening could largely supplant traditional market research techniques such as focus groups. Social media analytics has distinct advantages over traditional marketing research.

Perhaps most importantly, it is fast and inexpensive. Social media analytics can produce data in hours or days, as opposed to months for conventional research methods. In addition, consumer research through social media can be more accurate than conventional market research because consumers are less disposed to social desirability bias and mistaken recall. People tend to be honest on social media, since they post their opinions without being prompted by survey questions. Services such as aggregate the social media posts and use a combination of automated software and human analysts to perform analysis and produce reports.

Replace or Enhance?

Some marketing experts argue that social media research should augment rather than replace traditional research, at least for now. Many consumers do not use social media or rarely or never post or engage others. Some people may make up or hide their profile information, and only a small percentage of people have Internet access in some countries. Frequent social media posters have different demographics than average consumers. Because of those factors, social media listening may produce skewed findings.

“Social media is still quite new, and the media themselves and the analytic tools for exploiting them are still evolving,” write Kevin Gray, founder of Cannon Gray consultancy, and Koen Pauwels, a professor of marketing at Ozyegin University, Istanbul, in post for Green Book, a blog on market research.

Still, they concede that social media has provided a wealth of new data and has substantially impacted marketing research. “The marketing world has changed dramatically in the past decade and there is no turning back the clock even if one wished to,” they say.

The stated reasons to continue using traditional market research methodologies seem to suggest that social media listening can now serve as the primary market research methodology for customer feedback, supplemented by the older methods.

Bottom Line: Marketers in some countries prefer social media monitoring over other more traditional marketing methods, new research shows. Social media listening is also prevalent among marketers in the U.S. That’s not surprising considering the cost and speed advantages of social media listening.