Failing Forward In Digital: What I Learned From Mistakes in Online Research

View All Posts
Our Thoughts
  • by Sarah Urmston

When it comes to approaching research from behind the desk, one of my favorite qualitative research methodologies we do is social listening. Or, as we like to call it, #nofilter.

As we know, there are hundreds and thousands of conversations happening daily on social media platforms. YOUR social media platforms. You just tagged your friend in an Instagram post by one of your favorite beauty suppliers, telling them why this cleanser is your absolute favorite. You skim through the comments of an article on Gender Bias in the workplace - and maybe leave your own comment. You just have to tweet about the new vacuum you got for Christmas, or you jump onto Reddit to gauge others’ opinions on the latest iPhone release.

There is no cap on conversations or opinions being shared across the world through social media. And through one of our most valuable platforms, Infegy Atlas, we have a way to “listen in” on these conversations - specific to our client's objectives. We spend two weeks hand-coding the right content that is most relevant to those objectives, followed by capturing summarized key learnings, themes, and opportunity areas for the team to walk away with at the end of the research.

Being able to scour over conversations happening online as my job? Yes, please. And often from the outputs, we have seen this used to develop initial hypotheses and foundation before further exploring additional research, or, it has shown success simply as a stand-alone report - walking away with exactly what they needed.

However, there are challenges that come with online research. At SEEK, we believe there is growth in failure, and we believe in owning all of our outcomes. Because there is so much content to work with when using this methodology, we’ve learned a few things along the way to best set our clients and team members up for success.

We must be extremely clear on the research objectives.

A lot of times with a #nofilter, the heaviest lifting comes at the beginning: aligning on the right objectives that will set the stage for the research. It’s our job to work with our clients to make sure we are on the same page before diving in too deep. In the past, we may begin with extremely broad objectives, and in other cases, objectives that are extremely specific - both that don’t come without their challenges.

For objectives that are too broad, this opens up a wide range of content that may not always be relevant. Sure, there’s more to choose from and dive into - which is helpful. However, this can open up to topics that our clients may not be interested in learning about or may be content they already know. This is not only a problem for your client team at the end of the project, but a great deal of time lost that could have been dedicated to something they do want to know.

For objectives that are too specific, this can often eliminate a lot of opportunity for content in our search. We’ve learned that sometimes, less is more, and there is such thing as too many objectives for social listenings. However, this doesn’t mean it’s not possible - it just means it requires separate searches and more time commitment. This allows for more conversations to come in on one (broader) objective without limiting or canceling out the rest.

We bring our clients along for the journey.

When working with social listenings, it is extremely important to check in with the team throughout the process. This methodology is much more independent than others, therefore, it is important to keep our teams updated on the findings, what top themes are rising to the surface mid-way through, and sharing an outline that allows the team to ask questions, build into the search, or share what’s not working.

When we aren’t having these conversations, the dialogue can get messy, and the objectives can get murky. Just because digital research is done online does not mean it should be done alone.

I, and SEEK as a whole, will continue to learn from these mistakes and understand how to better grow within our own expertise. Because of this, I am able to continue working closely within my favorite methodology and give our clients exactly what they show up for.