Yesterday  Tom Webster, VP of Strategy and Marketing at Edison Research, joined us to talk about the differences between social media data and market research, and how brands can connect the dots between the two.

While it might be tempting to rely solely on social for insight, brands need to delve deeper in their analysis to understand the data and how social media metrics impact broader marketing goals.

If you weren’t able to join us, we’ve pulled some of his key points below.

Three Types of Research

Tom began by covering the three types of research that social media data can be converted into.


The things you can count, e.g. how many people engaged in a certain behavior.


This is the research that provides insight into why people do things.


These are the questionable studies and headlines that drive traffic, but misinterpret the data.

Evolution of Social Media Monitoring

While social media provides us with an endless amount of data, there are several stages brands must go through to turn that social media data into social media research.


The evolutionary chain begins when brands start monitoring mentions. While it can be tempting to rely on volume alone as a measure of “buzz” around a brand or product, it’s not just about the numbers. Brands need to apply scrutiny and look at the context of the mentions and other external factors to begin converting data into insight.

The New Metrics

With social media has come a set of new metrics:

  • Likes
  • Retweets
  • +1’s
  • Comments
  • Shares
  • Sentiment
  • Influence

While these metrics are worth measuring, they can’t stand on their own. Brands must map their social media metrics to their marketing metrics in order to gain accurate and meaningful insight.

  • Awareness
  • Attitudinal (Willingness to Consider)
  • Consideration Set
  • Response Rate
  • Trial/Purchase
  • Repeat Purchase/Rejection/Churn
  • CSAT
  • Brand Fit
  • Loyalty
  • Net Promoter
  • Evangelism

Direct Consumer Needs

To quote Tom directly, “social media is the world’s biggest focus group”. While looking at social media data alone doesn’t provide the answers when it comes to qualitative insight, it does provide brands with the right questions to ask. Tom illustrated this with a great example involving breakfast cereal. I won’t spoil it for you, but you can find out more in the recording at the end of this post.


Indirect Consumer Needs

Once brands determine direct consumer needs, they can move to discovering the indirect needs of consumers. When Lexus was entering the U.S. market, in addition to quantitative research, it conducted qualitative research by asking its target market what features in a car would make their lives easier. The answer was surprising and changed the way the Lexus product was engineered and marketed.


Social media monitoring gives users huge listening capabilities, but as Tom says, brands need to do more than ingest and spit out the social media data they gather. One point he covered was to calibrate by source. For example, a brand might pull in a large amount of data from micromedia, but that might not be where its customers are talking. It doesn’t mean that that the data isn’t valuable, but it should be weighted accordingly when looking at the big picture.

The Prediction of Offline Behaviors

When combined with other tools, social media can provide brands with valuable insight into how their consumers behave offline and how that correlates to their social media metrics. Tom gave the example of Dessert Gallery and how the bakery conducted an experiment to determine the value of its Facebook fans and how its social media efforts impacted customer behavior.

In conclusion, Tom left the audience with three takeways:

  1. Break down informational silos within your company
  2. Calibrate social data to other marketing data
  3. Use social as a tool, not the tool

These are the points that brands should keep in mind when converting their social media data into research to get a deeper understanding their customers. As Tom so aptly put it, social alone won’t give you answers but it will give you better questions.


If you missed the webinar or want to enjoy it again, we’ve included the video and presentation slides below.


How does your brand convert social media data into research? What other tools do you use in addition to social media monitoring? For more on social media metrics, check out our ebook, 5 Steps to Effective Social Media Measurement.