Why social is about more than just social data

Didn’t make it to the Market Research Summit last week? I spoke about why we need to take a much broader view of social. Rather than looking at social data and the impact it can have on the decisions our clients make in isolation, we need to take a more strategic view that takes into account the transformative effect that social is having on entire business models. If you missed it, take a look at my thoughts below.

Social is big and it’s only going to get bigger

Social has become a huge part of our lives. According to research from We Are Social, British social media users spend 1.6 hours on social channels every single day. But when we consider that social media extends beyond social channels into product reviews, forums and even blogs, its real impact is likely to be much, much greater. And it’s only going to get bigger. Mobile has accelerated the growth of social. Once, the use of social media was confined to desktop computers. But mobile has changed that – allowing consumers to swipe, snap and share anywhere, at any point of the day or night. And as mobile grows, this is only set to increase.

Social is driving decisions via insight

The massive growth has had an impact on all businesses regardless of industry. But one of its most interesting applications is to market research. As consumers share with one another on social channels, they’re leaving a trial of data in their wake. This has opened up new ways of conducting research and deriving valuable insight that is influencing the decisions our clients make.

But social is also changing business models

But if we confine our view of social to social data and its impact on insight alone, we’re only seeing half the story. It isn’t just driving business decisions through insight, it’s transforming entire business models. We’ve now reached a tipping point where people are moving away from just sharing content to sharing everything – from money to physical goods and services. This is what’s known as the collaborative economy.

Businesses in the collaborative economy are connecting networks of individuals together to share with one another. And this is happening in every sector. Take Airbnb – which provides holidaymakers with a place to stay by connecting them with people looking to rent out their rooms or apartments. Or Uber -which connects people seeking a lift with drivers in the local area through a mobile app.

And if you think these businesses can be dismissed as just small-start up, then think again. At $10 billion, Airbnb is worth more than The InterContinental Hotel group. And Uber is now valued at a whopping $18.2bn, making it worth more than Sainsbury’s. Against this background, brands can’t afford to stand still. They need to adapt their business models and tap into this phenomenon if they’re to survive.

So yes – social is opening up new ways of gaining insight and it is driving business decisions. But to see the transformative power of social, we need to take a broader, more strategic view. Those that focus on the tactical play of today and ignore the disruptive forces at work, do so at their peril, for it has no more use than rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship.