Social media does not replace marketing research professionals – insight requires people

Posted on November 19, 2010


Being part of the MRA’s (Marketing Research Association’s) panel this week, “Get Plugged In: Social Media and Marketing Research,” stimulated a conversation on whether social media will in many instances replace marketing research professionals. As I discussed during my presentation, social networking is about people having the means to connect, engage, and share. Marketing research is about understanding people and trends in a holistic manner. In the end, research findings are leveraged along with other information to help companies make better decisions. Both social media and marketing research have in common directly engaging with human beings.

Analytical tools, whether for measuring social media impact or marketing research outcomes, are only as good as the human beings who apply them. We all know the term garbage in, garbage out. There is a plethora of tools and resources available both in social and research but it takes knowledge, experience, and objectivity to know how and when to apply them. I often reflect on an expression shared to me by way of a beloved client and friend, Daryl, who unfortunately is no longer with us. When I would work with Daryl both at IBM and Prodigy Services, he had an expression that appeared on his office wall,

No data is better than bad data.

The absence of data means we are left with seeking out the truth. Relying on bad data or inaccurate information, means that we are formulating a false reality based on inaccuracies. As a young person cutting my teeth in marketing research, while working with Daryl, I discovered that in our desire to push the envelope we always searched for the truth in order to provide optimal direction to stakeholders. Decisions resulting from poor data often occurs because those lacking experience and skills have not been part of the process or there has been a lack of human involvement.

Too frequently the word insight is directly associated with information. For a working definition of insight I turned to which defines insight as an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, especially through intuitive understanding. Marketing research seeks truth and human beings bring intuitive understanding. This is why among marketing research best practices we check data, validate findings from multiple sources and double check that findings pass the sniff test. At least we ought to be doing these things.

As marketing research professionals and users of marketing research intelligence, we seek truth which means leveraging the right tools along with the right professionals. Don’t get me wrong I love social media and marketing research tools but they alone won’t get the job done.

Perhaps in my office one might see a sign that says,

Insight is not merely data or information; insight comes from people.


Oh I want the truth to be said.

The Human Beinz

The Office