Thursday, January 10, 2008

Lies, Damned Lies, Opinion Polls

Will Beresford, strategy director at Beyond Analysis, has some interesting comments in Channel Web this week.

His thoughts come at a time when, once again, opinion polling shows its frailty in the US primaries.

Beresford points out that:

Traditional models for businesses to research their consumers are also expected to change. Customer information will be enriched by data found on the social web to supersede traditional research tools such as questionnaires and focus groups.

Feedback and influence from social networks will ultimately become more significant factors in the purchasing decision cycle.

Of course, his view has to be predicated on the niche nature of online communities and the demands, which he outlines in the article, of social networks.

This is not easy. Many organisations are dismissive of online content because it seems to them to be banal. Often this is because they have a search engine view of content which gives one reference point in what is often a longer and more structured, often networked, conversation and at other times, to quote Professor Howard Rheingold: “When you claim to be sceptical of the authenticity of online socializing and advise enthusiasts to "get a life," who made you the authority on what a life ought to be?”

We also have to think in term of flow (Kay McMahon has an interesting paper). The theory helps explain the allure of online games and social networks. Flow is the mechanism that helps engage the user and is powered by basic instincts, something I have touched on. The drivers behind this is distilled into a short video and a lengthier post or two.

So, I agree with Beresford and invite the online community to show how to be effective in finding out more about user generated 'market' segments.