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The art of human conversation: treat consumers like you met at a party

By Michael Nutley | Writer for The Drum

June 9, 2022 | 6 min read

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You meet someone at a party. They seem interesting, and you want to learn more about them. Do you (a) run through a pre-prepared set of multiple-choice questions; (b) chat to them; or (c) join the discussion they’re having with someone else, and listen to find out what they’re like?

Finding The Human Perspective: How Conversation Powers Insight

The key is engaging with your customers and potential customers

According to Alfie Adamson, senior research consultant at marketing consultancy Epiphany RBC, answer (a) is the approach traditional market researchers have been using for years. Approaches (b) and (c) combine to form a more modern, conversational approach, which delivers better data, better insights and, ultimately, better business results.

This was the key message from The Drum’s recent panel session, 'Finding the human perspective; how conversation powers insight', produced in partnership with AI-powered consumer and market intelligence platform NetBase Quid.

“Levels of engagement with consumers who take part in surveys are declining, so when you get these interrogation surveys, which are really monotonous and really boring, it’s bad for the whole industry,” Adamson said. “Whereas we can actually start to have conversations with people, be more engaging, and it leads to better results as well as deeper insights. It’s so important for the industry to have better quality data and you can give more strategic recommendations based on this.”

Updating research for the social media age

Adamson explained that Epiphany’s approach is still based on the traditional model of primary and secondary research, but updates it for the era of social media.

“If you’re looking at primary research, it’s very important to look at human-to-human conversations,” he said. “If you interrogate consumers, they’re going to give you really poor quality insights. They’re not going to engage with you.

“Then secondary research is what’s out there already, and a lot of that comes from online content. But so many posts are taking place right now. For example, there are around half a million tweets being posted in one single minute on the internet. So choosing what to focus on can be difficult, but conversations and, of course, NetBase Quid, can help with that.”

Adamson gave the example of a recent project where Epiphany was asked to look at ‘entertainment bingers’, people who regularly stream films on demand. Prior research for this group showed they skewed towards male, they were located in the UK, and they were interested in movies and TV. Putting this into NetBase Quid produced an aggregate of all the keywords from the group’s Twitter biographies, revealing their interests, their favorite brands and the people who inspire them.

“Then you can start to understand that this is a viable community, what makes them tick, what stimulates them, what they all have in common. And it’s through social listening that we can start to do this.”

Influencing the influencers

According to Adamson, the reason all this matters is because it allows brands to identify the sub-set of the community who are early adopters, and to influence them so they influence everyone else.

“We’ve all seen the diffusion of innovation curve, where you move from the innovators all the way through the early adopters, to the late majority. And the reason we start to look at the most viable communities is because the innovators, the 2.5% at the beginning of the curve, are the ones who can really lead to your value.

“Because once you understand this audience in detail, you can start looking at their commonalities and what stimulates them, and start engaging with them online. And if you understand completely what these people are about, this leads to word-of-mouth and more resonance with the consumer.”

Two companies that do this well are fast-fashion brands Asos and Boohoo, Adamson said. They’ve identified a persona, ‘Daytime socializers’, who are young women in the UK who tweet about socializing, eating out, having a girl’s night out, having fun. They are also advocates for Asos and Boohoo online.

“Boohoo and Asos understand these are viable communities, they tap into the relevant culture with the content that they’re putting out there, and they’re really having a conversation with these daytime socializers,” he said.

Let’s work together

The other key point that Adamson made is that primary and secondary research has to work in tandem, but the way they’re used will depend on the individual project. For example, if you’re building a survey and wondering what questions to ask, you can use social listening to find a target audience online, learn more about them, and see what you should be asking in your questionnaire. Or, if you’re analyzing primary research, you can use social listening to supplement that research with examples of what your target audience is talking about online.

Ultimately, the key is engaging with your customers and potential customers, Adamson said.

“The more consumers engage with you, either through primary research or secondary research, the closer the connection they will have to your company, and the more money you can make.”

To watch the full discussion, 'Finding the human perspective; how conversation powers insight', click here.

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