Katie Paine: There are two major ways that technology has changed everything. First of all, the cell phone has deposited the land-line (and the phone survey along with it) into the same attic of history as the buggy whip, the 8-track, and the corset. One in seven households was cell-phone only in 2007 and the Pew Center for the People and the Press estimates that as many as 37% of people today are now cell-only users. This means accurate phone surveying has gotten very expensive – up by a factor of three times in the last three years. And, if you don't include cell-only households, you're getting a biased sample. Additionally the no-call lists have also made it significantly harder to reach people, further adding to the cost.
Secondly, technology has allowed people (customers, stakeholders, employees) to talk to each other as well as to organizations directly, without any filtering or media interference. Technology has made it incredibly easy for anyone with a computer to tell the world what they think. And if they're particularly passionate they can communicate those feelings via photographs (Flickr) and video (YouTube) As a result, your stakeholders are talking about products, services, and technology issues all the time.
PRWeek: You've just introduced MarketFramer. Please give a description of how it works.
Paine: With Market Framer we're using sophisticated text mining techniques to identify what people are talking about and where those conversations are taking place. But again, technology has its drawbacks. A computer can't tell the difference between sarcasm and irony. Also, if you rely entirely on computers and you want to know what's going on in the “virtual storage” marketplace, you're going to pick up conversations like “I spent virtually the entire weekend putting my clothes in storage.” So you need humans, trained to analyze the context as well as the words, to interpret the data correctly so you can make decisions based on it.
That's what makes MarketFramer unique. We combine technology with trained human research analysts to make sure you get the most accurate data that is relevant to what you're trying to accomplish. So the client gives us a key phrase or market that they want to study. We spend a week or so pulling data about that topic into our analysis system and screening out the irrelevant bits. We then spend another week interpreting that data and doing a statistical analysis on the data that then enables us to draw conclusions and make recommendations.
PRWeek: Your release says that part of the reason you created MarketFramer is to replace phone surveys. How is using social media comparable to using a telephone survey?
Paine: In a telephone survey, you are asking people what they think and then listening to the response. Traditionally, the advantage of a phone survey is that you get a more visceral, immediate, and authentic response than a mail or e-mail survey because you can hear the tone of voice.
With social media, you're getting an equally authentic voice because you're hearing what people are saying to each other rather than an interviewer. The challenge is that in order to analyze data, you need to be able to group it and categorize it accurately. That's where our expertise and methodology comes in. Just as with a phone survey, you need to either ask closed-ended questions, or at least categorize the open-ended questions, so MarketFramer does the same thing. Because we've done the research to identify the 26 types of conversations we know how to best classify conversations. And, because we've been analyzing conversations and content for 22 years we also know how to define the tone and emotions that are being expressed.