The Disadvantages of Social Listening Alone

Feb 28, 2022
The Disadvantages of Social Listening Alone

Market research is in a period of transition. While there’s still demand for traditional, primary research approaches and there always will be a role for those methodologies, new approaches have emerged in recent years that leverage vast new data sets—online user-generated content, such as consumer reviews, social media, blogs, and forums. There are many advantages to using these newer data sets: robust quantitative data, real-time analysis, compelling quals, and unsolicited feedback that is divorced from the bias of more traditional approaches. New research methods taking advantage of this data are often lumped under the terms social listening or social media listening, which centers social media content as a means to understand consumer and market behavior; however, social media listening has wide blind spots when it comes to answering business questions.

Social listening has its place in understanding brand or category perception, but a reviews analysis has richer context when seeking to understand product users. Here’s why:

1. Reviews are left by product users

There is no way to understand if someone writing a social comment on Twitter or Instagram is a brand user or not. They may be sharing their perception of the brand vs being a ‘verified buyer’. With reviews, this concern is lessoned considerably. Sites such as Amazon, Target and Walmart all note when a reviewer is “verified,” which allows for ease of mind that a brand is seeing feedback from someone who has engaged with the product. Even promotional reviews offer a fair assessment of a product. 4Sight has conducted previous studies, and have found that reviewers don’t soften their reviews for a promotional giveaway.

2. Context and Sentiment

Social Listening platforms can track the prevalence of a word or theme, tracking conversations and chatter. But noting prevalence alone doesn’t provide important context. Reviews offer a unique understanding into sentiment. Because of the star rating associated with reviews, brands can assess not just longitudinal popularity but also positive and negative drivers. For example, with a recent engagement for a Beauty brand, we saw considerable chatter in social media around the topic of ‘salon’. Some sentiment (positive or negative) can be gleaned from the context of the comments but a stronger measure of that context and sentiment is in a reviews analysis; the star rating factors into the context to provide richer understanding of sentiment. Additionally, a reviews analysis allows us to filter the star rating of reviews with the term ‘salon’ from those without, for further deeper understanding.

3. More than a Data Dump

Social Listening companies are often tech companies that pull social comments into a DIY dashboard. To glean insight from these dashboards, end users typically require training, spend hours manipulating the data, and still end up with little more than a cumbersome data dump. Very rarely are there clear takeaways or action steps. An advantage of a reviews analysis like 4Sight’s Insights Miner is that it is low touch on the brand’s end, while providing high impact. Experienced Brand Strategists push beyond the initial analysis of quantitative metrics like drivers, sentiment and prevalence, to tell a succinct, curated story with deep insight and tangible recommendations – so your team can spend time taking action.

As more and more companies leverage newer data analytics tools to give them a competitive edge, it’s critical that they select the best tool for the job – one that gives the most holistic answer to their question, while providing the biggest impact. For many market research challenges, whether brands want to understand their own users or competition, that tool is a reviews analysis.