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3 ways social data should replace focus groupsFocus groups.

Known for their presumed ability to provide real consumer insight into pain points and desired product features, focus groups have been the go-to go-to-market experimental methodology for decades.

But there are many problems with focus groups. They kill innovation, for one. And this:

“As with any method based on asking users what they want— instead of measuring or observing how they actually use things — focus groups can produce inaccurate data because users may think they want one thing when they need another.” – Jakob Nielsen, NN Group

Focus groups are nothing like the context in which your users will actually interact with your product. Focus groups invite unnecessary and unwieldy variables, like the glaring dangers of groupthink and brainstorming scenarios. Can’t you think of a time you said something just because of who was listening, and not because it was your actual thoughts? Yeah, that.

That’s where social data comes in.

(Social data = information from user-generated digital content)

Right now, out there, in the cybersphere, people are interacting with your brand and brands like yours all the time.

They are signifying pain points, needs, desires, and even enjoyment of various features. They are saying things that can provide valuable product insight. Are you listening?

It’s true that it is difficult to draw concrete conclusions from user input of any kind, and this is a problem for both focus groups and social data.

But social data is gathered in an unaltered, unaffected, user-driven context. Users guide the conversations in Web 2.0 and social media scenarios. The data is pure, raw, organic even. Untainted.

Because of this, here are three ways social data should replace focus groups:

1. Definition of Pain Points

Rather than sitting in a stuffy room with a group of strangers and answering questions like “What features about your smartphone frustrate you”, brands should be analyzing mentions of their competitors’ products, as well as related industry/topic keywords.

Draw out all the negative sentiment, and feast your eyes on a wealth of insight into opportunities to overtake the competition and meet real, specified user needs.

2. Message Testing

Once you’ve run some keyword tracking on the competition, you’ll start to see the efficacy of their advertising campaigns. Also, you can run your own social ads (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.) and test positive messages against a variety of demographics, looking for the highest success rates. Then, it’s up to your analysts to crunch the numbers and tell you exactly what messages are working well in your competitive product space.

This is especially effective if you’re planning on running digital ad campaigns for your product post-launch, since you’re testing messages in the context in which they will be viewed.

3. Elimination of Variables

After a focus group, you should be asking yourself questions like “What other factors may have caused them to answer this way”. After a social listening or social advertising analysis, you know your users responded however, whenever, and wherever they chose.

There are no variables you cannot measure with social data.

Social data provides better data in higher volumes than focus groups. Test your messages directly with your users in the right contexts. See how they feel about products similar to yours without the pressure of in-person small groups.

Focus groups still have their place, but well after high-volume testing with social listening and advertising.

Don’t miss out on the high-integrity experimentation you can conduct with social data.

Learn how to monitor and engage on the social web and apply social insights to business inquiries and/or problems. Download the Social Intelligence You Can Trust data sheet now for more information.

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