Social Media Analytics + Primary Research = More Actionable Insights

Social Media Analytics + Primary Research = More Actionable Insights

When social media analytics is combined with primary research, the data is more insightful and actionable for marketing and public relations.

By: Michael Brito

Category: Social Data & Analytics

In this video I define primary research and social media analytics and discuss how the two can be used together to drive more actionable insights.


In its most simplistic terms, primary research is a questionnaire or survey. It’s a lot more complicated than that because several things need to happen to generate insights. Defining an audience could be very difficult to do but it’s important, nonetheless. Determining what questions that you want answered would be the next step. The logic of the questions and the path that you want respondents to take would be the last step. Of course, after that you would have to analyze the data to generate insights.

Social analytics is a little bit more complicated, mainly because it’s newer and the innovation of social networks continues to evolve. I look at social analytics through two different lenses.

The first lens is performance and optimization. When brands are using social media as a paid advertising channel, it’s critical for them to track performance, optimize the spend and adjust along the way. You can also refer to this as paid media or paid social analytics.

Social analytics can also be used as a form of research to better understand an audience, a content strategy or conversation about a topic or brand. In most of my other videos I refer to this as audience intelligence, but at the end of the day we are looking at data directly from social media channels.

I used to be of the mindset that’s social analytics would tell me the “what” and that primary research will tell me the “why”. Here’s an example from the Prophet Brand Relevance Index report on the Top US Brands. They primary data source was a survey. I would expect that a combination of social data would change the results.

Think about it. With social media analytics I can understand what media publications that a particular audience is reading more so than others. With primary research, I can ask the question of why one media publication is preferred over another.

What I have learned throughout my data journey is that you can get both the “what” and the “why” from primary research and social data.

Social Media Analytics

Let’s take the Brandwatch Customer Loyalty Report that was published in 2021 in partnership with Global Web Index as an example.

Before we look at the data it’s important to first define that Brandwatch is a social intelligence platform and GWI Uses primary research to generate consumer insights.

The report leverages insights both from a social analytics perspective as well as survey questions.

Before looking at the data lets quickly read about their approach mainly because it does align to the idea that primary research and social analytics combined can generate extremely strong results.

Social analytics and survey data are inherently complementary as the former offers an unfiltered view of unprompted consumer opinion over time of almost any topic enabling researchers to find unexpected insights. Primary research allows researchers to ask consumers the exact questions they need answers to, so again, combining the two data sources gives researchers the chance to ask questions around unexpected themes that are cropping up from the social analysis.

So, in looking at the second paragraph here, GWI tracks the number of brand advocacy questions every quarter, and the question they ask is, “What would motivate you to promote your favorite brand online?” and the top three answers are :

  • High quality products
  • Rewards
  • Great customer service

Looking at the right, we’re looking at the social analytics and this required a significant Boolean query to qualify certain conversations into these buckets that were already predetermined from the GWI survey.

In this case they are using social media analytics to validate the findings from the primary research.

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