Social Insights: When to Use Them

Social Insights:  When to Use Them

What are social insights? How are they different than social media?  What are they good for? These are questions that we often hear from our business partners.

In a previous post, we talked about barriers to organizations adopting social insights.  In this post I’ll discuss why we believe they are so valuable, and the situations where I have used them most successfully.

How I Came to Believe in Social Insights as a Market Research Field:

Social insights is the methodology of ingesting the messy, unstructured data from social media and turning that data into actionable insights.  “Messy data” is putting it mildly.  Educated estimates show that ~80% of the big data from the web is unstructured.  I have to admit, at first, it took me some trial and error to discover what mattered and what to ignore.  This is true even after structure is added to the data.

Social media as a marketing tactic started becoming more common in the earl 2000’s and has really gained momentum over the next decade.  In 2012, I began using structured social media data to develop social insights.  At that time, different data science companies started gathering social data in large volumes, filtering out the “noise.”  I was fortunate to lead the charge among manufacturer insight teams in uncovering actionable insights for brands and retailers. My first partnership was with a company called TTAGG/Datarank, now a part of the Simply Measured family of products.

Collaborating with TTAGG, I found out that shoppers and consumers all over the world are talking about their experiences with brands every minute of every day.  These shoppers are posting images on Pinterest, tweeting about it on Twitter, complaining while reviewing products on, writing to brand websites and most importantly they are being very REAL.  REAL means people have a stronger tendency to speak honestly, without fear of repercussions when utilizing social media. In countless examples, we have seen they can’t wait to share their world views with everyone and many times they share social insights completely unfiltered and unapologetic. What a great opportunity for insight professionals looking to make an impact using social insights.

How I Use Social Insight in My Research Today:

There are three main ways I use social insights in my job.  The first is using social insights to understand new innovation launches.  The second is monitoring for product quality control situations.  Third is comparing a brand with its competitors. Let’s quickly take a look at these three social insight areas of exploration.

New innovation: When new products launch across the globe, brand manufacturers often struggle for real time insights on shopper perspective about the innovation.  Social insights is a great way to quickly get a pulse on reaction and sentiment.

Product quality control:  Shoppers have a tendency to take their product complaints to social platforms and voice their opinions.  We strongly encourage you to look for strong trends that have common themes around product performance.  When you find these quality problem areas, dive deeper and use social insights to drive awareness across your organization.

Comparing a brand with its competitors:  Social insights is a great way to identify strengths and weaknesses on your brand.  It is especially effective for examining key traits like brand effectiveness, scent, findability on the shelf and loyalty.  When comparing a brand v. a competitor, I typically look at three things:

  • The gross number of comments about each brand.  More comments suggests a more active consumer interest.
  • The overall sentiment of comments about each brand.  A large number of negative sentiment can indicate an issue.
  • The trend in volume and sentiment about the brand.  You want a growing number of positive comments.


In conclusion, social insights is not as simple as going on Facebook and plucking a few select quotes that help your story.  Good use of social insights requires using big data tools to add structure and generate insight.  I have seen first-hand what a  competitive advantage this can be for companies that utilize it.

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