People create billions of social posts every day — and companies have long known those posts carry insights. Market research giants like Nielsen started investing in social data back in 2006. By 2009 researchers dreamt of a social-powered “market research 3.0.”
But back then social data wasn’t ready to help market researchers. In 2009 barely one-third of Americans used social networks, and vendors’ focus on counting keywords ignored the silent majority of social media users. Nineteen Insights estimates that when market researchers first encountered social data it provided intelligence on just 16% of Americans.
Early social data also wasn’t structured, representative, or accurate. It was so bad that my former Forrester colleague Allison Smith Castelot called social data “vast, never-ending, unstructured, sarcastic, and full of emojis and hyperbole.”
Because of their poor initial experiences, today less than half of market researchers use social data.
But social data has overcome its early problems and is ready for a renaissance. Social listening now captures data on seven in 10 Americans. Leading research firms once again see the value: In 2018 Ipsos and Meltwater acquired listening platforms. And savvy research teams now use social listening to discover buyer needs, develop new products, identify problem products, create better marketing, and even predict sales.