Missiles, Open Mic Faux Pas, and Market Research
How do we get the most authentic thoughts and feelings? What are the potential differences between insights that are gathered using social media methods vs. the more traditional market research methods?
Webster’s dictionary defines a faux pas as a blunder, especially a social blunder.
Some of you may recall a fairly well known faux pas that occurred about 30 days ago while Obama was on a public stage at a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, with President Dmitry Medvedev of Russian. In the interaction between these two world leaders, they had “struggled to find common ground amid strong objections in Russia to the American plans for a missile defense system based in Europe.” In the course of what Obama viewed as a private conversation, he leaned over to make a comment to Mr. Medvedev and “found his private moment of political candor caught by a live microphone as he told President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia that he would have ‘more flexibility’ to negotiate on the delicate issue of missile defense after the November election.”
As the incident found broadcast through many news sources including the internet, response to the inadvertent view into this piece of casual social conversation was judged in many different ways, including current candidate for president, Mitt Romney, announcing to an audience in San Diego that the president’s remarks were “an alarming and troubling development.”
A faux pas?
It has always been of interest to me to know what people are really thinking and feeling. And, to understand the defenses, motivations, or the social/psychological strategies that we all seem to employ to hide the “truth,” the truth about our real thoughts and real feelings. The corresponding reaction is always fascinating when we’re found out; feelings of embarrassment, some sense of self-guilt, chagrined, angry, or any number of other emotions, even though the truth of our opinions has simply been revealed.
The clarion call of the market researcher is to find out what the consumer, constituents, citizenry, employees, etc. “really think and feel.” This information is said to serve as the germinal seed to making informed business/organizational decisions regarding product development, customer satisfaction, pricing, usability, perception and awareness about everything from building a Wal-Mart next door to your home or what candidate you will vote for in the upcoming election.
How do we get the most authentic, real, unpolished truth about the raw thoughts and feelings associated with the persons we are trying to serve, market to, understand, or appeal to through the products and services we provide in the marketplace?
To do it, we need not go into a history of the plethora of methods professional market researchers have developed in the past. But, we might also consider briefly the potential contribution of social media research to assisting us in the understanding we continue to seek.
Social conversation is electrifying and mind boggling when thought about in a global manner. Think of all of the words and expressions that are being shared between all the people on the planet at this very moment in time. How do we tap into that in a focused manner?
The advent of social media finds persons of all ages contributing their opinions on a wide variety of channels (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.). They are communicating their thoughts, ideas, questions, resolutions or problem solving experiences regarding just about anything you can think of, and the information provides a fertile file from which to harvest topic related comments. Methods have been developed and are now available to gather hundreds of thousands of topic related conversations, sort them, code and analyze the conversations, all in a manner that can be most helpful to companies who are providing a service or product in the marketplace that are interested in how their products and services are comparing with the competition.
So what are the potential differences between insights that are gathered using social media methods vs. the more traditional market research methods?
One might argue that the conversational data gathered from social research avenues is more unguarded than traditional research (candid, direct, forthcoming, forthright, freehearted, free-spoken, honest, open, openhearted, out-front, outspoken, plain, plainspoken, straight, straightforward, frank, unreserved, up-front) or just more authentic. Also the data may be defined as being more in the “present.” In other words, information gathered using social media research strategies can be argued to be more real-time; a more spontaneous view of “what I think or feel right now.”
Both social media and traditional research can give the business decision maker a “real” overview of what is being talked about (or felt about) different products and services. Social research has its advantages and disadvantages, as does traditional research and it’s important to know when each of them makes sense for gathering insights and making business decisions.
A faux pas may occur when someone unintentionally hears what you are saying, when you don’t want them to. The license to be listened to in the social media space is now part of the rule system.