Cathy Harrison

Recent Posts

Using Social Media to Redefine the Customer Value Proposition

Posted by Cathy Harrison

Tue, May 01, 2012

It’s not the size of the venue; it’s the quality of the content. That was the case for a local customer value propositionconference I attended last week at Babson College. Using Social Media to Redefine the Customer Value Proposition, was held by the Retail Supply Chain Institute in partnership with the Babson Alumni and Friends Network, and had an impressive lineup of speakers including executives from Google, Hubspot, Staples, Radian6, GaggleAMP, and EMC. The event was an opportunity for companies to share how they are leveraging advances in social media, mobile, and other online technologies to engage customers and increase loyalty. Here are a few of the highlights:

Dhruv Grewal, Toyota Chair of Commerce & Electronic Business and Professor of Marketing at Babson College, moderated and kicked off the event with an overview of how social media helps companies redefine their customer value proposition, moving it from a static proposition to a dynamic value proposition that is able to respond quickly to market changes. According to Professor Grewal, companies need to utilize the 4 E’s of social media to:

  • Excite customers with interesting offerings to align their needs with your company’s offerings

  • Educate them with information about your product offerings to increase share-of-wallet

  • Engage in a dialogue with them and their network to help differentiate your products from competitors’offerings

  • Help them Experience how your company’s goods/services are better aligned with their needs

Mike Gottfried, Head of Industry, Retail at Google gave a great overview of the company’s vision for the future and debunked the idea that Google+ was developed to be in direct competition with Facebook. He talked about Google’s approach to mobile (predicting that soon more people will own smartphones than computers) and their commitment to launching new products and innovations, first on mobile and then on traditional platforms. He suggested that we not think of Google+ as a channel, but rather as a “common thread” for their product and services. Their mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.  According to Google, currently 1 in 5 desktop searches and 1 in 2 mobile searches are related to location. Information must be discoverable (meaning fast and relevant), local, mobile, social, and personal.

Mike Ewing, Senior Inbound Marketing Consultant, at Hubspot gave an overview of inbound commerce and how it is driven by three components: content, search, and social media. According to Mike, it starts with responding to how customers make decisions—when they show interest and a readiness to buy. He suggested that it is optimal for a company blog to be updated 2-3 times a week and create effective content by starting with the questions your customers are asking.

Kevin Biondi, Director of Digital and Technology Marketing, at Staples reviewed some of the elements of Staples’ successful approach to digital marketing. Specifically, Kevin discussed the tremendous growth and impact of daily deals. In an effort to optimize their deals, Staples continually uses experimentation. Kevin suggested that while most companies tend to be risk averse, when it comes to social media, experimentation is the key to success. 

Keith Paul, Chief Listener, at EMC, spoke about how they structure social media listening.   EMC has a “spoke wheel” structure—and he heads up a social media center of excellence and provides guidance to several internal groups that use social media data.  He spoke about ECN, a network that EMC created to connect 250k+ customers with product help. On the ECN site and YouTube, EMC has successfully utilized video to communicate their corporate social media policies in a highly engaging way. Another example Keith gave was EMC One, an internal network they use for collaboration. Keith shared that product launches are now announced online via social media and they “listen” to the market’s response and increasing interest.

Thanks to one of our methodologists, Scott Motyka, who served on the conference planning committee and kindly invited me to attend.

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Posted by Cathy Harrison, Cathy is CMB’s social media research maven. Follow her on Twitter at @VirtualMR

Topics: Social Media, Brand Health & Positioning, Customer Experience & Loyalty, Conference Insights

St. Patrick’s Day: A Feast of Social Media Chatter

Posted by Cathy Harrison

Fri, Mar 16, 2012

When you think about St. Patrick’s Day, I bet food isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  We reviewed online chatter over the past month and although the holiday isn’t until tomorrow, we were surprised to see about twice as much discussion about St. Patrick’s Day recipes and favorite dishes (66%) than about beverages (33%).  Mentions of green beer, Guinness, and overindulgence are there, but far less than one might expect. How wholesome!  Or more likely, we have captured planning for the festivities.  Stay tuned for some interesting tweets on the 17th from holiday revelers! 

The most traditional dish, corned beef & cabbage, was most top of mind but there was a virtual feast of chatter about food comprised of almost every category imaginable.  Anything green (green pretzels, key lime pie, spinach quiche, hummus) is considered acceptable St. Patrick’s Day fare. General discussion about recipes was prevalent; some specifically mentioned having found ideas for interesting dishes on Pinterest boards.

St. Patrick's day food

 Aside from general mentions of drinking, the traditional Green Beer emerged as the most frequently mentioned St. Patrick’s Day beverage.  And just when you think you’ve seen it all, apparently some people color their wine green too…who knew?

St. Patrick's drinks

All of us at CMB want to wish you a festive and safe St. Patrick’s Day.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’d like to share my father’s favorite Irish saying:

May those who love us, love us
And those that don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts,
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles
So we’ll know them by their limping

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Click here for more on our strategic approach to Social Media Research.

Posted by Cathy Harrison, Cathy is CMB’s social media research maven and would never drink green wine. Follow her on Twitter at @VirtualMR


Topics: Social Media

Sig Testing Social Media Data is a Slippery Slope

Posted by Cathy Harrison

Wed, Feb 29, 2012

Social media listeningDuring a recent social media webinar, the question was raised “How do we convince clients that social media is statistically significant?”  After an involuntary groan, this question brought two things to mind:

  • There are a lot of people working in social media research who do not understand the fundamentals of market research; and

  • Why would anyone want to apply significance testing to social media data?

Apparently, there’s much debate in online research forums about whether significance testing should be applied to social media data.  Proponents argue that online panels are convenience samples and significance testing is routinely applied to those research results – so why not social media?  Admittedly that is true, but the ability to define the sample population and a structured data set should provide some test/retest reliability of the results.  It’s not a fair comparison.

I’m all for creative analysis and see potential value in sig testing applied to any data set as a way to wade through a lot of numbers to find meaningful patterns.  The analyst should understand that more things appear to be significant with big data sets so it might not be a useful exercise for social media.  Even if it can be applied, I would use it as a behind-the-scenes tool and not something to report on.

Anyone who has worked with social media data understands the challenging, ongoing process of disambiguation (removing irrelevant chatter). There are numerous uncontrollable external factors including the ever-changing set of sites the chatter is being pulled from.  Some are new sites where chatter is occurring but others are new sites being added to the listening tool’s database.   Given the nature of social media data, how can statistical comparisons over time be valid?  Social media analysis is a messy business.  Think of it as a valuable source of qualitative information.

There is value in tracking social media chatter over time to monitor for potential red flags.  Keep in mind that there is lot of noise in social media data and more often than not, an increase in chatter may not require any action. 

Applying sig testing to social media data is a slippery slope.  It implies a precision that is not there and puts focus on “significant” changes instead of meaning.  Social media analysis is already challenging – why needlessly complicate things?

Cathy is CMB’s social media research maven dedicated to an “eyes wide open” approach to social media research and its practical application and integration with other data sources. Follow her on Twitter at @VirtualMR 





Topics: Marketing Strategy, Social Media

Social Media Research: Keeping it Real

Posted by Cathy Harrison

Wed, Jan 11, 2012

Social media listeningSocial media research is still behind social media marketing in terms of getting past the hype.  Clearly there’s some overselling going on and more education is needed about how and when to effectively use social media data.  Some sales folks even go as far as suggesting social media listening can replace market research as a way to save money – without having the background or unbiased perspective needed to make such a suggestion. 

It’s time for researchers to have an open dialogue about social media data – warts and all.  What biases exist?  What steps are necessary to put the data in a truly usable form?  What are the best applications for social media analysis?  How can we best integrate it with other data sources?  I’m not going to try and tackle all these questions in this blog, but hopefully I can help stimulate discussion over time.

To put things in perspective, one must consider that typically only a fraction of social media chatter is worthwhile and relevant to your specific objectives. Keep in mind that the topic of interest for your social media analysis has a huge impact on how many “sound bites” you have to work with.  As you are pulling data, it can be a challenge to “disambiguate” (i.e., remove irrelevant chatter) and, in some instances, almost impossible.  Another challenge is that social media data is largely unstructured. Automatic coding isn’t optimal – especially if you plan to integrate the results with other data sources. 

Despite these challenges, there is no denying that it’s a valuable data source.  Having the ability to learn from chatter that is occurring naturally online and applying state-of-the-art technology to aggregating and analyzing this data is powerful stuff.   Social media analytic tools and text analytics are always evolving.   But even with the best social media listening tools and analysts available, social media listening cannot and should not be applied across all situations.  NO analytic tool or technique is a one-size-fits-all solution.   

Let’s put social media analysis in perspective across all of the tools, techniques, and data sources we have to work with.   Exciting things are on the horizon, but for now, let’s not expect (or promise) more than social media data can deliver.

Cathy is CMB’s social media research maven dedicated to an “eyes wide open” approach to social media research and its practical application and integration with other data sources. Follow her on Twitter at @VirtualMR

social media webinar


Check out our webinar Understanding B2B Social Media: An AMD Case Study and learn more about how Social Media Research is making a difference for our clients. Click here.

Topics: Marketing Strategy, Social Media

Impressions of the AMA Conference: Greater Focus on the Frontlines

Posted by Cathy Harrison

Wed, Sep 21, 2011

Strategy Client researchers are on the frontlines, fighting to redefine and broaden their role in the corporate decision making process. The rest of us are special forces, support troops, or reinforcements –devoted to helping our clients succeed. As a vendor-side attendee, I was pleased to see that the program lineup at the AMA Research & Strategy Summit last week was geared towards helping client researchers effectively “drive transformation.”  That’s where it happens….cutting edge tools and techniques are only transformational if they reveal new insights that will give corporations a competitive advantage.

For many of the presentations, I was drawn in by the sound advice and specific approaches clients have used with success. The program was well done overall, but I have to say that Abby Mehta of Monster Insights, Tim Ruth of AT&T, Jeff Mercer of Microsoft, Dana Williams and Dorette Warms of Southwest Airlines, and Ian Lewis of Research Impact Consulting were especially helpful for those in a client-side role. Without a doubt, this information would have benefited me in my Bose and Wrangler days.

A recurring theme throughout the presentations: client researchers on the frontline need to get out of the trenches and forge ahead with business knowledge, consulting skills, research expertise, and the ability to synthesize and convey insights with great storytelling skills.  Even with these capabilities, corporate researchers often face fierce opposing forces from long-standing corporate cultures, which may exclude researchers from having a “seat at the table.”  As Jeff Mercer outlined for the audience, client researchers face continued challenges—changing the expectations of their internal partners, breaking old habits, and fitting talent into the new mission.

The focus on client researcher needs not only furthers the support troops’ appreciation of the challenges our clients are tackling, but also benefits the AMA as an organization.  IIR Conferences are known to have a higher ratio of end users.  This not only increases overall attendance, but also allows them to command a premium price.  If AMA can attract more end users and keep their conference fees reasonable, they will fill a sorely needed niche in the market research conference arena.  Budgets are tight and conferences have become a luxury for many corporate researchers – those who would benefit from the information the most. 

I applaud AMA for having a great line-up of speakers – including our clients Christopher Frank and Marilyn Franck, and our partner NetBase – and for focusing content on where ”the rubber meets the road.”

Did you attend? What did you think?

Posted by Cathy Harrison. Cathy is a client services executive at CMB and has a passion for strategic market research, social media, and music.  You can follow Cathy on Twitter at @virtualMR    

You'll also find Cathy at The Market Research Event (TMRE). Are you planning on going to TMRE? CMB is an event sponsor and presenter at the conference. Feel free to use the code: TMRE11CMB when you register  for a discounted price. We hope to see you there. Learn more about the conference here.



Topics: Conference Insights