Five ways to elevate your social intelligence in 2019

Five ways to elevate your social intelligence in 2019

Everyone knows that social media has weaved itself into the fabric of everyday life.

A recent study published by Ofcom in 2018 found that the average Briton spends around 24 hours a week online, with 16 to 24 years old spending more than 34 hours a week online.

However, a study similarly conducted in 2018 by Nineteen Insights found that less than half (46%) of market researchers are capturing this social data. This comes after many researchers admit to not knowing how to conduct social research, and how to leverage the data.

So what can we do to better harness the power of social in 2019?

  1. Combine social research with other traditional research methodologies

Social research is often done in isolation to other research. According to a 2018 Brandwatch study, “less than 36% of companies [say] they blend social data with data from traditional customer research sources like focus groups and surveys”.

While social data delivers actionable findings, such as knowledge into which type of posts get the most engagement, the unique insight that one can gather from social comes from integrating multiple sources and data points.

For Brandwatch Research Services’ Aamna Dabral, the value of integrating social research with traditional research is clear:

“Social can also be used after insights have been collected from traditional market research to quantify further/ reiterate findings or even to get more nuanced and unprompted qualitative information to add more colour, details, and specifics to the initial findings.”

Social research can therefore act as a springboard for other traditional forms of research and vice versa. For example, while survey data can provide insights into stakeholders’ rational thinking, social data can help explain emotional attachments.

As such, it is essential to fully contextualise and embed social research and findings with other traditional forms of research, including surveys, interviews, and good-old desk research.

  1. Allow for language and cultural nuances in social conversations

Analysts often lack the necessary context of where social conversations sit. For instance, while it may be great for a TV show to be sick, customers may not be so happy with a dish that has made them sick.

This lack of contextualisation may result in cultural and linguistic barriers. For instance, Americans are twice as likely to be patriotic compared with the British counterparts according to the 2013 British Social Attitudes survey. This means that feelings of patriotism may be expressed either more openly or strongly in American English compared to British English.

It is therefore important for background research to be conducted into the topic and any regional or cultural practices prior to conducting any social research.

Furthermore, it is important for a native speaker to conduct any language-specific research as many words may lose their meanings when translated.

  1. Capture the complexity of human emotions when mapping sentiment

According to a 2018 report by Twitter, there are over 5 million UK tweets in which users share their moods, feelings, needs, and emotions.

But social research often fails to capture the depth of human emotions, for we are all guilty of using the same-old positive, neutral, negative sentiment scale.

If we are to understand the barriers and drivers to change public sentiment, how can we move beyond this scale?

A solution that we have applied at Portland is to use psychologist Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions when attributing sentiment, which classifies primary emotional responses on the following eight-point scale:

  • Joy
  • Anticipation
  • Trust
  • Surprise
  • Disgust
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Anger

So next time you are looking at online sentiment, ask yourself: does my scale allows me to truly capture the breadth of possible human emotions?

  1. Account for relevance rather than reach when mapping influence

Nano, micro, macro, and mega influencers – social marketers are endlessly coming up with new names to define and segment influence primarily based on the volume of their followers or their reach. But with follower fraud and fake accounts becoming increasingly prevalent, how can we identify and map influencers that are truly relevant to the conversation?

A report by Econsultancy found that almost half (42%) of marketers believe that “the question of fake followers/ bots” was a number one concern. As such, the end of 2018 has put into question the current definition of influence that is focused on reach in favour to one focused on relevance.

Furthermore, one should also remember that an influencer exists within an ecosystem, and that it is important to understand an influencer’s position within this network. As such, not only should an influential user be one with a high relevance, they should also be able to connect with and spread your message to the most significant / different communities.

For instance, while a user with 10,000 followers from a single community may sound appealing, a user with only 1,000 followers but with strong connections with four separate communities may result in your messages being spread further away and enable you to target a greater range of stakeholders.

This involves a shift in how we approach digital influencer mapping, but it is a change worth taking as it will result in a richer understanding of the social landscape for your clients.

  1. Be mindful of the story your social report tells

Once the research has been conducted, it is important to deliver an impactful social intelligence report. While this may seem straightforward, many fall into the trap of approaching social data as numerical data, and thus end up providing endless slides of charts and numbers.

However, social intelligence is everything but quantitative.

Instead, social research is a collection of qualitative data. It is essential to create a strong narrative which guides readers through the report and to provide rich emotional answers to your client’s questions.


SPARC is a multidisciplinary team that develops impactful and creative strategies rooted in robust insights. We combine research, analytics and proven processes with the expertise and instincts of account teams to ‘show the working’ behind creative ideas and ensure that they deliver measurable results against specific objectives.

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