If I can’t be there in person, I’ll certainly be there in spirit. MRMW Asia is sure to be a great event given the line up of speakers and topics in a fascinating city. And though I’d go to every session if I was there, if I could only see three, these are the three that I’d pick.
I’d love to see Frank Kelly’s presentation on the use of mobile devices in different countries. Canada, where I’m from, is known for its multiculturalism but that doesn’t mean I’ve had the opportunity to step into the homes and experience the lives of people who are so different from me. Anytime we can gain a better understanding of the differences between cultures means our research results will be better and more relevant to the right people. Even better, it means that as humans, we’ll have an increased understanding and more empathy for each other. And we all know we need more of that on this planet.
I’m also thrilled to see that ethics and standards are on the agenda twice, first with a solo session by Mark Michelson and second with a panel moderated by Michelson. As a social media researcher, I see the problems of loose standards and ethics day in and day out. Companies have been charged with deceiving consumers, consumers have been furious over their loss of privacy, and clients have given up on methodologies because multiple vendors have misled them about validity and capabilities. This isn’t good for anyone, and certainly not good for an industry that prides itself on fairness and honesty. I’d love to see Ho, Ooi, Niles, and Foreman take a hard stand for consumer privacy and research ethics.
And last, I’d love to see Pankaj Jha’s presentation on facial coding. As a past Psychologist, I know there is validity behind the theory of facial coding. I know that researchers are also getting better at transferring the theory of facial coding into valid practice, though we aren’t there quite yet. If that’s not enough, let’s just see if we can take something that is already difficult and make it even more difficult by going mobile. Hopefully, the mobile picture I took of myself thinking about this conference will be easy to code – good lighting, clear expression. I’m sure every consumers’ image will make it this easy for Jha.
To those fortunate enough to be attending, keep the rest of us in the loop with your blog posts and tweets. We’ll be anxiously waiting for them!
Because Conversition has played an ongoing role in the social media space, Iwas asked by the MRIA to speak with them when they addressed the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in Ottawa.
Brendan Wycks, the Executive Director of the MRIA, opened our talk with a discussion of MRIA’s views and desires and I followed with a discussion more focused on social media research. Below is my speech.
Address to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
House of Commons, Ottawa, June 5, 2012
Presented with Brendan Wycks, Executive Director of the MRIA
Thank you everyone for taking the time to meet with us.
As Brendan said, my name is Annie Pettit and I am the Vice President of Research Standards as well as the Chief Research Officer at Conversition, a Canadian market research start-up specializing in social media research. I am an avid social media research tweeter, blogger, and conference presenter, and have recently published a book about social media research which includes a chapter on social media research ethics. Because I am seen as a global thought leader in the social media research space, ESOMAR in Europe, and the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) and the Marketing Research Association (MRA), MRIA’s counterparts in the United States, each invited me to be a contributing member of their social media research committees.
To give you a sense of the role that social media research is playing in the market research industry, I’d like to share with you a few results from the Spring 2012 Greenbook Research Industry Trends Report, a survey of over 800 market researchers around the world. Twenty-eight percent of those researchers had used social media research. Fifty-nine percent planned to use social media research in the next year. And more than 10% said that social media research is one of the greatest opportunities for researchers in the future.
Social media research is defined as the application of traditional market research principles to the collection and analysis of social media data for the purpose of better understanding policies and opinions. Just as survey researchers use survey data, social media researchers use social media data. And, we apply the same strict methodological practices to that data. For instance, just as with traditional survey research or focus group research, social media research begins by collecting the right data. Where survey researchers decide which people are best suited to participate in a survey, social media researchers decide which websites or other online forums are best suited for better understanding opinions. We incorporate traditional aspects of market research including sampling, weighting, scaling, norms, and box scores to ensure we measure opinions as accurately as possible.
The main purpose of social media research is to better understand the opinions people have towards policy issues, products and services, celebrities and politicians, social issues and cultural activities. Social media research helps us learn what people like and don’t like so that we can improve the services people receive, create better products, and better serve our constituents.
Most importantly, social media research is not a kinder, gentler word for social media marketing. We do not market products. We do not sell products. We, like our counterparts working in the traditional side of the industry, conduct market research. We abide by and respect the same methodological and ethical guidelines and standards as traditional researchers do.
I’d like to share with you just a few examples of how we abide by those principles.
First of all, we take great care to only collect public data. Some websites, like Facebook and Linkedin, use passwords to completely hide portions of data from outsiders, including Google. If you were to do a Google search, this data would not be found. Social media researchers do not and in fact, cannot collect this data. Many social media research users expect to see more data coming from Facebook but because much of it is programmed as private, very little is actually released. In some cases, we could just create a password and collect the data. But we don’t. We respect this privacy.
Other websites allow anyone to read the entries. Comments left on YouTube, Flickr, or WordPress are written for strangers to read and enjoy, and can be found via a Google search. The purpose of passwords in these cases is to allow readers to follow the conversation among many different people. This is the type of data that social media researchers collect.
In addition, we depersonalize data that is shared in reports, we do not engage with social media users without their consent, and we do not knowingly collect data from minors.
The internet has evolved rapidly in recent years. Ten years ago, it seemed incomprehensible that the average person would share intimate details of their life online. Today, bloggers are regular people who get excited when strangers, not their friends and family, read their thoughts and share them widely. Public forums are open social networks where strangers from around the world find and share opinions with each other. Twitter is a newer entrant into the social media space, and for many people using it, the ultimate goal is to write a tweet that millions of people around the world will read. We have reached a stage where social media has become so engrained in our lives that social media users expect companies to respond to social media comments written in an obscure corners of the internet. People expect their social media complaints to be met with letters of apology.
Right now, Canada is one of the global thought leaders in social media research and I’m proud to represent Canada in that role. But, I worry that if we lose this position, if we are unable to compete in the social media research space because our privacy standards restrict us rather than let us self-regulate, that our clients will have to use social media research conducted in countries with less than high ethical standards. That scares me.
Let us be thought leaders. Let us continue to lead in the social media research space. Let’s demonstrate to other countries that social media research can be conducted in a way that is beneficial to the government and corporate decision-makers who seek actionable insights from it; to research companies; and, most of all, to Canadians.
I’ve done my fair share of webinar, workshop, and conference presentations. I’ve talked to groups of ten, a hundred, and three hundred people and there is usually an audience member with a point to prove. They’re skeptic of the topic, eager to prove they’re smarter than everyone else, or just keen to listen to their own voice.
They ask questions designed to identify flaws in methodology or logic, and force me to respond with answers like “You’re right, that is a problem” or “True, we should have done a better job with that,” or “Right, sentiment analysis will never be perfect.” But you know, those kinds of questions don’t scare me. Every research project that was ever conducted was rife with logic and methodology errors and I’m glad that researchers are picking up on them. That’s how the cycle of research works. Find a problem this time, fix the problem the next time.
Then there are questions from people who are keen about the work that has been presented and want to learn more about it. They’ve seen the tables and graphs that I’ve prepared. They’ve listened to the pros and cons of the methodology. They’ve seen the real life examples of misleading and poorly done research. With all of that information, they understand the good and bad of what they’re potentially getting into and they’re intrigued. Intrigued enough to ask that dreaded question.
Now first, you have to recognize that I am a researcher to the core. I deliberately chose to take every single research methods and statistics and psychometrics class in school, even going so far as to get special permission to take classes that were outside of my curriculum. Research methods was and is all I care about.
My problem is this. Every conference submission form and every followup email from conference organizers says you must educate and not promote and I wholeheartedly agree with those rules. I don’t want a sales pitch at a conference. I want to learn something new.
But then that horrible question gets asked. It comes in one of two forms. 1) “What software are you using to do this?” and 2) “How much is your software?” Anyone who’s seen me present can attest to my reaction to those questions. They immediately catch me off guard and I stumble through answers like an idiot. Answering these questions makes me feel like I am promoting and selling. Indeed, I feel that simply speaking in front of a crowd is a sales pitch.
Even worse, as soon as I’m asked to talk brands and money, I fear that people will distrust my research objectivity. I fear that people will disregard my passion for quality and honesty and see not the sense, but the cents. That, my research friends, is truly terrifying. But perhaps I’m over thinking things. Perhaps those questions are just nice compliments, confirmations that I’ve done the job I was supposed to do. Perhaps it really was a sales pitch, a sales pitch done the right way. But I still hate getting that question.
15.30 PANEL: Will communities kill the 6 group project?
- The future for research communities in generating insight
- How online communities fit into the overall market research mix
- Evaluating cost efficiencies and quality trade-offs
Nick Priestley, Managing Director, Tuned In
- Are communities mainstream now? We are approaching mass market in terms of awareness. People still have concerns about blurring boundaries but there are more and more success stories. Barrier is internal stake holders.
- Is it research? should we call it research? It’s more about collaboration and getting input in at the beginning. Forward thinking clients are open to it. Does it replace traditional focus group?
- is 6 group project under threat? It will never die. It is still relevant. But there are many benefits to online approach. Start with hypotheses, develop over time. You can do this in two hour. Vast geography, you can’t do focus groups in hard to reach areas.
- What kind of people work best in communities? 1% are super users, 9% are active, 90% don’t do anything. We want more people to be active. Now, people are more familiar with the idea. We need to show the process more to interest more people.
- Segment communities so you can identify the creative people and the strict people and use each group to their strengths. Find tasks that are creative as possible to encourage people. People often don’t realize they were capable of expressing themselves in that way.
- Audience – it’s important to listen to people who know nothing and these people aren’ t in communities.
- Online doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper. You get more value from community. More people, less geography issues, less time of day issues, more natural setting, technology gives you more creative options.
- Is it the shiny object effect? Do groups need a fresh spark? There is absolutely room for both. [Ah yes, the dichotomy must always be there, qual vs quant, online vs offline, MY favourite must always win. Can we just all use one big tool box with all the shiny tools in it?]
- Are communities a safe haven with fewer ethics issues? Are communities fake social media? Communities are no different from people in real life.
- Audience – Will facebook put an end to parties? Same as will communities put an end to groups. The two must work together. [ha, yeah. no more parties for me.]
- Communities when used properly will replace parts of panel and parts of focus groups. [Because it is a better tool for various objectives. Use the RIGHT tool from your toolbox.]
- Audience – Are focus groups more boring than they need to be? Can we incorporate fun of communities back into focus group.
- Audience – What about finding pre-existing communities, that aren’t created by MR. This area is littered with huge fails because of lack of transparency, researchers failing to identify themselves. Perhaps use those areas for recruitment. [remember patientslikeme]
- Audience – 6 groups aren’t under threat, the creative brainstorming groups are under threat. Communities let you do it over a longer period of time.
- Audience – Are communities at risk because anyone can do them, even if you aren’t trained? Well, the client can read the entire transcript and confirm it all.
- Community Approach by Bester and Dunn, #SoMeMR #li #mrx (lovestats.wordpress.com)
- No way? Way! The LoveStats Book! #MRX (lovestats.wordpress.com)
- Ethical Framework for SMR, Panel #SoMeMR #MRX #li (lovestats.wordpress.com)
- The Gap between brands and consumers by Adams and Hallums #SoMeMR #li #mrx (lovestats.wordpress.com)
- Will Communities Kill the 6 Group Project by Nick Priestley #SoMeMR #li #mrx (lovestats.wordpress.com)
- Brand Together by Meyassed and Koch, #SoMeMR #MRX #li (lovestats.wordpress.com)
- Mumsnet Engagement #SoMeMR #li #mrx (lovestats.wordpress.com)
- Mum knows best by Child and Boreham, #SoMeMR #li #mrx (lovestats.wordpress.com)
I’ve been to a number of market research conferences where the following argument has been raised in defense of methodologies that some people deem questionable:
It’s not illegal so we can do it.
It’s made me stop and re-evaluate how I run my life. That whole “Do unto others” thing is far too complicated and theoretical and the books that promote it are thousands of years old and not relevant to me. Besides, it’s greatly to my advantage to base my choices purely on legalities. So here is how I’m going to better my life.
- I’m going to save at least $100 every year by keeping any wallets or phones that I find. (Shout, I could have had a new Android phone last week!)
- I’m going to get at least 3 free pairs of gloves and 1 free umbrella every year by not telling departing transit passengers that they’ve dropped something.
- Conferences presentations will be a lot funnier because I won’t tell people who are about to present that their zipper is undone.
- I will save at least 90 minutes every year by no longer holding doors open for people, trying to re-unite lost children with their moms, and offering to taking photos for visiting travelers.
- I will make more money by disregarding personal preferences for privacy, anonymity, and respect.
- I will gain more self-respect by doing what’s right for me personally instead of wondering how my perfectly legal actions affect the people around me.
It’s all perfectly legal my dear friends so let’s start with item #1.