NEWS25 July 2023

Social listening prioritising measurement over insight, report finds

News Trends UK

UK – An insights-focused approach to social listening could be “considered the more mature approach to social data analysis” than a measurement-based approach, according to research by The Social Intelligence Lab.

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The State of Social Listening 2023 report found that while a measurement-focused approach is currently the dominant one in the industry, an insights focused approach could be considered the more mature approach to social data analysis due to the value that could be extracted from data.

The report said this “raises the question of why the focus is on measurement rather than insight”, with a significant number of research and insights professionals that are focused on measurement.

The reasons for the popularity of measurement over insight in social listening was potentially attributed to a lack of skills to take analysis to the next level. Or that practitioners are time poor and do not have the resources to do deep listening.

The results are based on a three-week survey completed by 201 social listening professionals and carried out between April and May earlier this year, with respondents asked about their current social data analysis practices, the challenges they face and their opinion on the future of the industry.

The research found that there is a higher proportion of those working in agencies who believe their leadership fully understand and support what they do ( 42%) compared with those working in-house ( 26%).

The biggest challenges facing respondents working in-house are data accuracy and quality ( 45%), compliance ( 38%) and budget ( 36%), while for agencies it was budget ( 46%), data accuracy and quality ( 42%) and lack of integration ( 22%).

The research found that the majority of respondents had licenses to three or fewer social listening tools, while 51% of businesses spend between $50 and $199,000 on the tools, compared with 2.3% of respondents spending $2.5m to $5m.

‘Data quality’ and ‘data sources covered’ were cited as the most important features that people look for, but were also the main limitations of the social listening tools used by respondents, with models and analysis capabilities and cost being the other top limitations mentioned.

While the highest proportion of respondents planned to invest in new data analysis technology, enterprise organisations were more likely to invest in staff training and almost 25% of respondents said they wanted to invest in dedicated agency support.

The top five data sources in 2023 were Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and LinkedIn, with enterprise organisations more likely to prioritise Reddit data over LinkedIn.

The alternative data sources most frequently used were search data, survey data and web analytics, with 51% of respondents stating they selected the appropriate data sources depending on the question or problem they are addressing.

The research found 36% of respondents worked mainly on projects around detecting trends and almost 25% focused on brand monitoring and tracking.

The top three areas where respondents spent their time analysing data, cleaning data and interpreting research results.

Dr Jillian Ney, founder at The Social Intelligence Lab, said: “Social listening isn’t widely adopted and is often viewed as different, and inferior, to other types of market research and insights.

“The measurement-based approach is exactly what we expect social listening to be – campaign measurement, brand tracking, trends analysis and the like. But, for researchers, it doesn’t go deep enough. It doesn’t help us understand human behaviour, and the rigour of the analysis is somewhat lacking.

“The insights-based approach is different. This uses frameworks and processes more aligned to traditional research where the specific problem to be solved is the starting point, rather than the data itself.  

“Social listening is maturing but the majority of use cases currently rely on a measurement-based approach. However, there is even more value to be squeezed from social data than currently is. To really make the most of it, practitioners need to know why they’re using it and what technology and skills are required to get the answers they need.”