The marketing world is always in a state of flux—such is the nature of an industry that must continually adapt to new communication channels and ever-changing consumer behaviors while navigating a raft of potentially uncontrollable external factors ranging from macroeconomic conditions to the business’ own reputation.
The reality, however, is that irrespective of flux, it’s getting harder and harder for marketers to hear what their core audiences really think and feel about the products and services they’re attempting to take to market. There’s simply too much information and too much noise.
It seems as though the customers with the most valuable feedback are rarely the ones that receive the attention, due largely to the fact that their perspectives are drowned out in a flood of mostly meaningless data.
Of course, high-quality, actionable data always costs money. Focus groups and in-depth qualitative studies carry sizeable budgets and may often be seen as a bridge too far for brands already battling a raft of research spending commitments. So, where can these brands turn to gain a deeper view of customer sentiment?
Many have tried but failed to extract value from their existing social presence, attempting to mine insight from the plethora of comments and views posted to their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube channels, among other platforms. Within these walled gardens, it’s again both difficult and costly to extract the data that brands require, but perhaps more fundamentally, these platforms are unable to deliver in-depth qualitative analysis.
The social platforms were never designed to serve as meaningful market research tools, yet marketers still rely upon them simply because they are unable to access anything more powerful. So, what can brands do, and how, to get closer to their customers to really hear what they’re saying and thinking?
The answer may lie in influencer marketing. Rather than simply using influencers as a new channel for communicating with audiences, marketers can deploy influencers as the latest arm of their market research and consumer insight operation. Since they have a vested interest in keeping their finger on the pulse of their subscribers’ views and opinions, who better to canvas audience opinion on a specific brand, product, or campaign?
It’s clear that influencers have great potential to become a new funnel of real-time data and market research for their partner brands, not to mention for their own benefit to continue bolstering the growth of their channels. For example, tech influencer Phylol, who has a rapidly growing social audience of circa 500,000, is garnering audience feedback on “League of Legends” to improve both his content as well as the game itself.
Nonetheless, a common problem influencers share is that they’re just as restricted as their partner brands by the current limitations of the preeminent social discussion platforms. Ask an influencer what qualitative insights they’ve been able to explore recently via their YouTube comments and they’ll probably laugh out loud.
If they want to be true “data influencers,” these content creators may have to look elsewhere in the quest for platforms that offer more powerful audience insights. After all, Phylol, like many other data influencers, recognizes that retaining influence means listening and capturing powerful insights to stimulate deeper, democratic debate. As influencer marketing continues to mature in 2018, brands should consider repurposing their influencer connections to drive people-powered feedback from relevant and thoughtful consumers.
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