I hate social media research because: It doesn’t measure awareness #3 #MRX

Justin Bieber at the 2010 White House Easter E...

I recently wrote a blog post citing ten of the biggest complaints about social media research. Today I address complaint #3.

Social media research cannot measure awareness nor incidence.

What is awareness? It is a measurement of how many people or the percentage of people who have heard of the topic of concern.

Have you heard of Justin Bieber? Yuppers.
Have you heard of KitchenAid small appliances? Darn tootin!
Have you heard of Freelin-Wade? Uhhh…. should I?

Chances are that anyone reading this blog post has heard of Justin Bieber. It’s pretty hard to ignore this young man who’s fine hair has graced many a magazine cover and news website. But here’s the important question: Have you mentioned his name in social media? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Even though you’re aware of him.

What about KitchenAid? If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably heard me yammer on about KitchenAid at one point or another. So have YOU mentioned KitchenAid in social media? Probably not.

And what about case #3? The only reason I know the brand name Freelin-Wade is because I just thought of an obscure category and searched for any brand name associated with it. So plastic tubing it is. I’ve never heard of them before nor have I ever tweeted about them before. But even this doesn’t reflect a case where social media would accurately measure awareness. You see, there are probably plenty of people in the industrial business who know Freelin-Wade very well but they too have never tweeted about it.

So this brings me to the answer. As much as we’d like it to, social media can NOT measure awareness. You may be able use it as an under-reported approximation, but you won’t know by how much it under-reports. If you find that your research objective is specifically awareness, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Head on over to survey research.

2 responses

  1. Is not awareness a function of social sharing? In case of Facebook, would you be able to measure reach, impressions and friends of fans and then make assumptions? True it is not an exact science, but rather comparative (virality).

    1. It can only be a rough under-estimate. There are MANY caveats. E.g., brands like Adidas or KitchenAid or Pringles where the word can only be used to mean one thing will be under-estimated the least. But brands like Target and Gap and Apple will be much more under-estimated as the process to remove target practice and gap in your teeth and apple crumble will trash legitimate data. And then what about brands that everyone knows about but no one feels like talking about – e.g., every one knows unilever and procter and gamble but how many people write about those brands? We must always remember that awareness as measured online absolutely cannot generate as accurate a result as a blinded, unaided, randomly sample probability survey.

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