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Big news, people: GWI has partnered with Audiense, the leading audience intelligence solution.

“So what?” we hear you ask. Well, insights drawn from different sources – in this case GWI’s survey data and Audiense’s social data – paint a more detailed and reliable picture of what audiences think, feel and do.

Or to put it another way:

Survey + social = deeper insight. That sounds like a good reason to keep reading.

Looking deeper we see seven general benefits of combining social and survey in this way:

Benefit 1: More accuracy, deeper understanding

Combining social and survey data produces a result that’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a 1+1=3 thing – the genius of AND, not the tyranny of OR. Allow us to explain.

Social data gives an invaluable insight into how people feel about specific topics. Because it’s less mediated, it’s more revealing of the sentiment behind what they say.

Imagine someone using social to vent about how they hate one product and love another. “Hate” and “love” are strong words, but they’re everyday language online. What they reveal is passion, an emotion that survey data struggles to capture. The same goes for pretty much any strong feeling.

Importantly, social data isn’t limited to analyzing language; we can also get a detailed picture of an individual’s attitudes and feelings by looking at the emojis they use. That’s important because the way people use emojis can be even more spontaneous and unfiltered than their use of words, with humor being particularly revealing.

Using social to generate audience research insights also leverages the fact that social users don’t know they’re part of a study, so their statements and reactions are likely to be honest. We see this most clearly in responses to real-time controversies or hot topics of conversation.

Survey data is massively superior when it comes to capturing specifics around a customer’s purchase journey, lifestyle choices, and their self perception.

For example, it’s very unlikely social data would ever capture a very specific audience like “millennial marketing professionals who drink tea periodically, game every day, are interested in women’s health, and use TV ads to inform their purchase decisions. People simply don’t share that level of detail on social media, and if it’s not there, it can’t be captured.

Another advantage over social data is that surveys – certainly at GWI – are carefully crafted by highly skilled market research professionals, and the resulting data is cleaned to remove any responses that are clearly unreliable. All of which means the resulting data sets are sophisticated and trustworthy.

And talking of trustworthiness, it’s a fact that people rarely bring their whole, authentic selves to social. They might think they do, but they don’t. Instead they treat social as theater, projecting an idealized persona and treating interactions as performance.

Do you share as much of your true self on social media as you would in an anonymous survey? Probably not, and those omissions would of course influence any insights derived from your responses. The point is, none of these issues arise with surveys.

The bottom line is that there are situations where survey data excels, and others in which social data is more valuable.

To get a truly deep, truly rounded, 360 degree view of audiences you need both.

Benefit 2: Look closer, see further, move faster

Combining survey and social enables you to dig deeper into your audience and get a broader perspective – like a combined wide angle and telephoto lens.

For example, a survey might show your target audience loves football, but social data can give you invaluable insight into how this plays out across the different communities they engage with, like supporters’ clubs, football meme accounts, and sports charities.

Now, more than ever, brands need a holistic view of consumers, and combining social and survey data is the way to achieve it.

Benefit 3: Validate your insights

Cross comparing different data sources means you can have maximum confidence in the resulting insights. Or to put it another way, seeing how well survey and social data correlate adds confidence to your findings; if a particular insight scores strongly on both then the chances are you’re on to something.

Benefit 4: Overcome memory bias

The phrase “recollections may vary” highlights an important problem when individuals are asked to remember specifics.

Combining information collected via a survey with social data helps reduce unintentional memory bias errors.

That’s important because throughout the history of market research, researchers have usually relied on self-reported data. Adding a layer of social data means you can identify and weed out misreported opinions like never before.

Benefit 5: Keep track of emerging trends and plug gaps in your understanding

Analyzing social media is great for real-time insights, making it easy (or at least easier) to spot trends in your audience research as they emerge and play out, while surveys can add color and nuance that can influence your response. 

Benefit 6: Spot undiscovered affinities

Here social data can help you understand the connections between different communities in a way that tells you more about your specific audience.

How they describe themselves in their Twitter bio gives an insight into how they perceive themselves, while looking at who they follow sheds light on their political and social views.

Similarly, looking at who follows them can highlight how influential they are (or aren’t). Obviously you can then follow up these leads with consumer survey data to really understand what’s going on and how it can help you.

Benefit 7: Find the right influencers/partnerships to supercharge campaigns

To leverage the power of influencers you need to know exactly who your audience follows – for the common sense reason there’s not much point commissioning influencers who don’t have any influence. Combining social and survey data sources is a surefire way to check that a potential partner or influencer is a good fit for the audience you’re trying to engage.

For our shared customers, this partnership provides a genuine point of difference, setting them apart from their competitors and tipping the scales of success subtly in their favor.

Finally, where exactly will all this make a difference in your day-to-day operations? We see three killer use cases: 

  • Inspiring and refining marketing strategy, specifically campaign management, content ideation and ad targeting
  • Steering product development, especially when it comes to innovation
  • Ensuring competitive advantage in terms of pitch wins and client retention. 

These three hold true for market research-reliant businesses in a swath of sectors, but especially agencies where its value will be more apparent.

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Written by

Roger is a senior copywriter at GWI with a special interest in research and data topics. He's written three books on copywriting for major publishers that together have earned him literally dozens of pounds. His hobbies include running, music and writing about himself in the third person.

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