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Are You Listening?

Social listening might be a strong


research solution if we can listen and spot
opportunities
Sebastián Silva and Damián Suárez
Source: ESOMAR, Latin America, 2019
Downloaded from WARC

Mega Research, a research company, launched a social media exploration to uncover drinking
occasions in Brazil by using social listening in its solution.

To respond in a scientific way to a hypothesis of market research using social media as a basis, a
previous immersion was necessary to appropriate information.
Mentions on social media are real parameters, which measure today's behaviours, and Mega
Research realised 33% of the spontaneous mentions about alcoholic drinks on social media
referred to consumption occasions.
With Givaudan, a flavour and fragrance manufacturer, Mega Research carried out a qualitative
and quantitative exploration on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to understand RTD and beer
consumption occasions in Brazil, offering tailor-made sensorial experiences.
The main innovation is using social listening in a real research solution, starting from
spontaneously shared, unstructured data, to replace a typical user method, such as qualitative
focus groups or online communities.

Introduction
Everything happens on our smartphones. We see the people we know the more often on social networks than in
person. We catch up with our friends and relatives through their profile pictures and comments, and we know
these people better than our coworkers or our families, with whom we spend more time. Nowadays, this
happens because what we do, what we say we do, or what we are interested in doing, is communicated through
social networks rather than in person. We speak our minds much more on social media than in other "real life"
scenarios. We are more critical because we want the person reading us to reply with something just as truthful
as our opinion.

These days, it is normal to feel that we have been disconnected from a "friend" when they do not post anything.
What they do is almost a mystery, forcing us to find them on WhatsApp and write: "Hey, are you OK?" It may not
be something we expected, but it has been happening for years. So, how is the industry dealing with this
phenomenon? In recent years, agencies have begun to use various techniques and initiatives to respond to
some research needs according to the big data originating from social networks. It is an incipient movement that
looks for ever deeper foundations. Big data, however, still sounds distant from consumer insights. The term "big
data" indicates something huge and immeasurable. When something is everything, it is nothing, especially in
market research where, when handling such enormousness, we get tense when we find data that we cannot
control, that we cannot structure with a question, or with a qualitative exploration. That cannot be found in a
database.

Market research and Big Data


Therefore, as researchers we are supposed to listen to people and spot insights. However, if we do not pay
special attention to the place where they express their thoughts and feelings (i.e. social media networks), we will
be missing the heart of the play. Mentions on social media are real parameters, which measure today's
behaviors and at the same time give way to insights for the future. If duly analyzed, mentions are an endless
source of spontaneous information and may complement, or replace, traditional methodologies like habits,
segmentation, brand image or even post-tests. On the other hand, social listening for insights continues to be
market research's big debt. Instead of creating our own metrics, we are still expecting AI (Artificial Intelligence) to
contribute the methods, key indicators and analysis solutions industry of insights will endorse later on.
Nevertheless, to this day neither software giants, nor specialists in business intelligence or semantics have
managed to find the expected insights. That is why Thick Data, which deals with the qualitative analysis of
mentions, achieves stunning transformations. Insights should be perceived, felt and spotted with the human
senses of touch and smell, as well as technology. Many insights are right there, still we need AI to reveal them.

Thick data and big data share the same procedures: mentions on social media are detected through specific key
words with a common origin, which might be a brand, a category or a topic. The difference between them lies in
the focus: thick data explores and classifies instead of confirming and quantifying. The phrase is the same, but
the way of addressing it turns it into data. The thick data case we present is a segmentation of RTD and beer
consumption occasions in Brazil.

How it all started


"The facts do not speak for their own. Reality is a construct, an unrejected hypothesis." - Gianni Vattimo, Italian
philosopher.

As mentioned before, social networks are locations where people tell their experiences and give different
opinions on places, phenomena or brands. However, to be able to respond in a scientific way to a hypothesis of
market research using social media as a basis, a previous immersion was necessary to appropriate information.
This means creating new information. It is not describing a reality, it is generating it from its facts. From the
tracking of 23 brands on three social networks (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram), during six months we
gathered this great base of analysis, from which we could create and/or find surrounding realities.

Among other findings, we realized that 33% of the spontaneous mentions about alcoholic drinks on social media
referred to consumption occasions. These people express and mention spontaneously and in an unstructured
way that they are drinking X or T, from brand A or Z, with N friends, in a specific place or moment, with food or
drinks as a benefit or driver, together with a reason or particular emotion. The number of occasion mentions is
even greater from Centennials and Millennials. With Givaudan, a company always at the forefront of consumer
insights of the flavors and fragrances industries, we jointly carried out a qualitative and quantitative exploration
on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to understand RTD and beer consumption occasions in Brazil and offer
tailor-made sensorial experiences eventually.

Brazil is also an excellent place to develop this project due to its heterogeneous regions, cultures, geographical
areas, quantity and variety of brands, slang and conversation styles. This could really make a difference on
social networks, considering conducting this same project with focus groups may lead to complex logistics,
numbers of groups and budgets. After obtaining a general comprehension, it is important to understand the true
dimensions of each experience, the flavors validation and the actual needs.

How it was done


This project aids Givaudan in creating value with its customers in market development, helps beer brands to
position themselves better and expand their line of products, or generate innovations to compete with other
companies. The project's methodology was analyzed exhaustively and we concluded the following:

Analyze the real possibility of mapping consumption occasions in Brazil through social media. Mega
Research had information related to the number of mentions on social media of alcoholic and non-alcoholic
drinks (e.g. Coca Cola and Pepsi), as well as consumption occasions.
There was a "control cell" from a segmentation previously conducted in Mexico, where a traditional
methodology had been used. In this way, it was possible to validate beforehand the efficiency of doing this
exercise directly on social media. In Mexico, Givaudan had previously conducted a qualitative consumption
occasion segmentation using focus groups. 11 consumption occasions were spotted. These occasions in
Mexico were monitored through social listening in an attempt to assess whether they appeared in the
exploration stage and if they would be easy to identify, which was actually easy to do. Therefore, it was
decided to move forward exclusively with social listening in Brazil.
The 11 occasions were posed as hypothetical to avoid repetition, since the individuals involved were
Millennials. We validated them and added new ones too.

The first step in the study was to identify mentions on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram about more than 22 beer
brands and 15 RTD brands from Brazil, with both high and low penetration.

More than 600,000 mentions were spotted and after cleaning and discarding spam, ads, and so on, 238,000
were left and analyzed through Mega Research software under the team's supervision. 16 consumption
occasions were detected as a whole and grouped in this way:

Consumption moments;
Company;
Drivers;
Presence of other drinks;
Presence of other food;
Brands;
Pictures;
Specific Insights.

The Project continued with an online quantitative validation of 1,000 Millennial cases across Brazil, where each
Millennial answered questions about two consumption occasions, based on an incomplete block design to
facilitate an overall view. Thus, 10 relevant occasions were left out of the 16 possible occasions in the category.

Main learnings
The main innovation consists of including social listening in a real research solution, starting from unstructured
data shared spontaneously, to replace a typical user method as qualitative focus groups or online communities.
The second innovation is the technique and use of categories, which are out of a mention such as the analysis
of small samples instead of big ones for data accuracy, as well as the mapping of facts, data description and
emotions related to those occasions. Listening (more) in social networks to the activities of people in order to
build reality is today one of the best scenarios for the future of our work; particularly in ad-hoc research, based
on a specific objective such as the one we propose here. It is extremely useful to find triggers or customs that we
cannot detect but that do exist, as they are palpable and they can be insights, such as product development,
pack changes and presentation of market shelves. They are all new ingredients to explore, which could pave the
way to new projects to validate this information.

Undoubtedly, the third level of value is related to brands: valuation, link, drivers and barriers analyzed both
qualitatively and quantitatively. This is our next challenge. The method we chose, if it is exploratory alone, is an
excellent tool for immediate use. Completing it with a quantitative test gives numerical validity to complete the
hiatuses that were empty and check those initial hypotheses.

About the authors


Sebastián Silva
Based at Givaudan, Mexico

Damián Suárez
Based at Mega Research, Argentina
© Copyright ESOMAR 2019
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