Tag Archives: ethics

How marketing researchers can start being more ethical right now #MRX

I challenge you to rethink your behaviours. I challenge you to jump off that pedestal of marketing researchers are more ethical than other people in the marketing world and think about whether you’re being as ethical as you like to think you are. I challenge you to:

1) tell people that answering your survey or participating in your focus group might make them sad or uncomfortable or angry
2) recognize that benign questions about age, gender, income, brand loyalty, weather, and politics make people unhappy, uncomfortable, and angry
3) incentivize people when they quit a survey partway through especially when a question may have made them uncomfortable
4) allow people to not answer individual questions but still complete the entire survey
5) debrief people at the end if surveys by sharing some details about how the results will be used to make people happier via better products and services

Can you hold yourself to a higher standard? Can you start right now?

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Is Facebook the only emotional manipulator? #MRX

If you haven’t heard of the Facebook ‘scandal’ by now then I’m jealous of the holiday you’ve just taken on a beautiful tropical island with no internet access. The gist of the scandal is that the feeds of 689,003 people were curated differently than everyone else to gauge the subsequent effect on emotion.

While most people’s feeds are curated based on which friends you like, share, and comment on more often, the feeds of these people were curated in addition, by considering the positive and negative words they included. In both conditions, Facebook chose which of your friends’ posts you would see though in the Test condition, you might be offered a greater proportion of their positive or negative posts. The conclusion was that you can indeed affect people’s emotions based on what they read. You can read the published study here.

I honestly don’t know where I stand on the ethics of this study right now. Ethics interest me but I’m not an ethicist. So instead, let me think about this from a scientific point of view.

Do you deliberately manipulate emotions in the work you do? As a marketing researcher, your job is ONLY to manipulate emotions. You know very well that this brand of cola or that brand of chips or the other brand of clothing cannot boast better taste, feel, look, or workmanship. All of those features are in the eye, or taste buds, of the beholder. Through careful research, we seek to learn what makes different kinds of people happy about certain products so that marketers can tout the benefits of their products. But, at the same time, we also seek to learn what disappoints and makes people unhappy about the products and services they use such that those weaknesses can be exploited by marketers.

Through a strange twist of fate, a colleague and I recently conducted a tiny study. We found the results quite interesting, and wrote a quick blog post about it. Then the Facebook news broke. As Facebook did on a larger scale, I will confess that I manipulated the emotions of about 300 people.

Previously, I saw on a number of studies that age breaks are inconsistent. Sometimes researchers create an 18 to 34 age break, and other times they create an 18 to 35 age break. In other words, sometimes you’re the youngest person in a group, and sometimes you’re the oldest person in a group. Would you rather be the oldest person in a young group, or the youngest person in an old group? What did we find? Well, people did indeed express greater happiness when they were part of the younger group, even though they were the oldest person in that group. I deliberately and knowingly manipulated happiness. Just like Facebook did. Do you hate me now? Do you think I’m unethical? You can read the post here.

As marketing researchers, every bit of research we do, every interaction we have with people, is intended to manipulate emotions. We collect data that marketers use to criticise our favourite products. We collect data so that politicians can directly criticise other politicians through their negative ad campaigns. Has that bothered you yet? Has that bothered you enough to warrant outcries in social media? Have you campaigned for an immediate ban of television, radio, and viewing products on the shelves at supermarkets knowing that those things are intended to manipulate our emotions?

Since you know that your research is intended to affect emotions, do you inform your research participants about the potential negative consequences of participating in your research? Do you tell them that seeing their age in the older age bracket may make them unhappy, that viewing critical ads may make them unhappy, that being asked to select up to five negative attributes might make them unhappy?

Given that we’ve done it this way for so long, have we become complacent about the ethics of the research we conduct? In this age of big data, is it time to take a fresh look at the ethics of marketing research?

[Originally published on Research Live]

 

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Canadian Senate: Boring mumbo jumbo or fascinating privacy discussions? #MRX

Bumped to first class!

Bumped to first class!

On my way to prep for our Senate meeting

On my way to prep for our Senate meeting

Today, I was pleased and, more correctly, honoured to appear before a Senate Committee to speak with Kara Mitchelmore, the CEO of the MRIA, regarding Senate Bill S-4, the Digital Privacy Act. The official opinion will shortly be available but for those of you who can’t wait, here is the basic gist of it. Any inaccuracies here are my own. 1) Breach notifications should be mandatory, and the Privacy Commissioner should be the unbiased third party that determines what is a real risk of significant harm to an individual. 2) The MRIA supports the provisions in the bill which add clarity to what is valid consent. The committee may be interested in our code of conduct which contains a section on the ethical issues in dealing with children and young people. 3) The MRIA is pleased that PIPEDA will be amended to allow the transfer of personal information from an organization to a prospective purchaser or business partner (think mergers and acquisitions). 4) The MRIA does not support allowing organizations to share personal information of individuals to other organizations without consent. It should follow due process such as through a court order.

Senate Committee agenda

Senate Committee agenda

5) The MRIA would like to close a loophole which allowed organizations to share personal information without consent to an investigative body or government institution. It should follow due process such as through a court order. After we spoke, Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, made numerous excellent points (Michael’s website). Some of his comments are included here (any errors or misrepresentations are my own).

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If I could only pick three conference sessions to go to… #MRMW #MRX

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.

annie mobile

Self portrait via mobile for a facial coding exercise

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!

Establishing Global Social Media Research Benchmarks: Through the eyes of the Twitterverse #MRMW #MRX

Nicholas McCracken – Ford,  Tricia Benn – Rogers Publishing Limited, George Rassias – Ontario Lottery & Gaming, David Johnson – Decooda, Annie Pettit – Conversition, Malcolm De Leo – Netbase, Michael Wolf – BBDO, Tom H.C. Anderson – Anderson Analytics (OdinText)

Is there a need for social media research standards? Is it possible to build standards? I could tell you the kinds of questions and answers that came up during this panel but why not let the audience speak on my behalf. What follows is a very small (non-random) selection of tweets from the audience as they listened to the panel. I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts as well.

https://twitter.com/DianeTweeting/status/226009518386065408

https://twitter.com/DianeTweeting/status/226010147686858752

A Plea to the Canadian Government #MRX

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

Brendan Wycks Annie Pettit House of Commons Canada

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.

Thank you.

Through The Eyes of Twitter: Speaking at the Canadian House of Commons on Social Media Privacy #MRX #NewMR #NGMR

Oh, and for those who are wondering, yes, I DID see Justin Trudeau. He happened to walk by as we were having lunch. True!

I hope to post my speech and some informal comments later. Stay tuned!

The Audience Question I Fear the Most #MRX

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.

Here’s the Problem with Social Media Research Ethics #MRX

Immanuel Kant developed his own version of the...

Image via Wikipedia

Wherever I may wander, wherever I may roam, I always come across a divide in the interpretation of market research ethics. Some people think all market research must be permission based. Other people think anything in the public eye is fair game. The gap therein is wide, rife with arguments, and seemingly unsolveable. But I think I’ve figured out what the problem is.

Many people playing in the market research sandbox have no training in market research. They did NOT take an undergraduate degree in market research. They did NOT take statistics and research methods and research ethics courses in school. They did NOT take philosophy or medical or psychology or sociology courses in ethics. They have NOT taken certification courses offered by market research institutions. In fact, many people playing in the market research sandbox come from computer science, database management, and many other non-social science research spaces. They don’t have the same understanding of people as market researchers do.

Our industry is suffering from a massive influx of workers with insufficient or no training in important market research skills and knowledge. Sure, you can pick up things on the job, from your colleagues, from mentors, from conferences, from webinars, and from many other places. But you can’t pick up everything and you can’t pick up everything correctly. And you certainly can’t pick up research ethics without the careful guidance of someone who has spent decades debating that issue with trained and respected colleagues.

It is only with appropriate training that we will be able to reduce the gap. The gap will always be there but as more of us better understood the human condition and the rules that go along with using humans as data points, there will be more points of agreement. So raise your voice. Raise your voice every time it’s needed.

Will Communities Kill the 6 Group Project by Nick Priestley #SoMeMR #li #mrx

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.

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