How valuable are social tags as research tools?
Providing a revealing look at consumers’ perceptions of products and brands, social tags have the potential to take the place of much of traditional market research, according to researchers at the University of Maryland.
Examples include images and photos tagged and shared on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook, videos tagged on YouTube, and tweets tagged (via hashtags) on Twitter.
In their research, professors P.K. Kannan and Yogesh Joshi from the university’s Robert H. Smith School of Business compare conventional techniques brand managers use to determine consumer perceptions, such as brand concept maps and text mining.
More than 7,000 social tags were then aggregated to show the added value in the more unconstrained, open-ended information they contain.
Previously, for instance, marketers would build so-called brand maps in market research. Consumers would be asked in interactive sessions, “What comes to your mind when you think of this brand?”
Their responses — “good quality,” “cheap,” “trendy,” etc. — would be collected to create a narrative that describes consumers’ overriding sentiments about a brand, with the most-repeated terms dominating the narrative.
“This can be a very intensive process,” Prof. Kannan said in a statement. “We argue in this article that these social tags are basically a snapshot of what consumers are thinking about brands. They are giving marketing researchers a lot of information, for free.”
Marketers can use social tags as a complement to automatic keyword identification in text mining to compile a start list of keywords to mine.
The information from social tags was also found likely to be a more accurate depiction of consumers’ feelings because they’re not prompted by researchers, as in conventional approaches. Social tags can also show how brand associations vary across segments, how topics associated with a brand change over time, and how brand perceptions change over time.
The study states, “While similar information can be obtained using other methods such as text mining and primary research methods, it is the ubiquitous nature and type of tagging data that leads to its several advantages over the other methods.”
- Study finds social tags highly accurate, reliable among consumer perception metrics – University of Maryland
- Harvesting Brand Information from Social Tags – Robert H. Smith School of Business
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What advantages do you see, if any, with social tags in gauging brand perceptions? Will findings from social tag-based approaches amplify or replace traditional approaches such as sorting, personal interviews and surveys?