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Virtual Ethnography: Bridging the Gap between Market Research and Social Media


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While there have been many different applications of social media data in the marketing field, one that is not well known but is arguably the most interesting, is Virtual Ethnography.

Virtual Ethnography is the process of conducting and constructing an ethnography using the virtual, online environment as the site of the research. With Virtual Ethnography, a market researcher can study a community online to gather insights within the context of marketing strategies and/or initiatives.

John Song & Jen Kersey, share their insights into Virtual Ethnography and illustrate them with a case study for the beloved marshmallow candy Peeps . The findings are both entertaining and quite insightful from a marketing perspective.

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Virtual Ethnography: Bridging the Gap between Market Research and Social Media

  1. 1. Virtual Ethnography: Bridging the Gap between Market Research & Social Media #sm2ROIseries Jen Cardew Kersey @JenKersey John Song @JohnSong
  2. 2. OVERVIEW OF PRESENTATION #sm2ROIseries Defining Virtual Ethnography @ThePeeps: A Case Study Virtual Ethnography in Market Research Q&A © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 2 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  5. 5. WHAT IS ETHNOGRAPHY? #sm2ROIseries Ethnography is a research methodology rather than just a data collection technique. It is unique in its: Data Approach Analysis Collection • Open mind • See it from • Theoretical • Objectivity their POV frameworks • Adjustments • Experience it • Deep dives as needed • Use multiple • Brainstorms methods • Client • Spend as involvement much time • Going back as needed into the field • What they if needed DO vs. what they SAY © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 5 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  6. 6. AND VIRTUAL ETHNOGRAPHY? #sm2ROIseries Virtual ethnography, like it‟s offline counterpart, ethnography, is a research methodology rather than a data collection technique •Ethnography of a virtual space (one website or more) •Ethnography of a group of people (across many websites) •Ethnography of a topic (across internet & can include many groups) Online, you can explore: •Public vs. Private conversations •Communities of people •Influencers and extreme individuals •Individuals © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 6 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  7. 7. WHAT CAN VIRTUAL ETHNOGRAPHY EXPLORE? #sm2ROIseries Virtual ethnography Public Discussions (in stores, talk IM Social shows, radio shows, etc.) Networking Sites Blogs/ Microblogs Peer Private Conversations On the Web evaluation sites Discussions (with family, being had by (Combination of public, friends, spouses) members of a private and semi-public) Multimedia (YouTube, community Podcasts) Newsgroups Semi-public Message Discussions Boards (at work, in the restroom, while Chat rooms shopping, etc.) © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 2 7 010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  8. 8. WHAT MAKES VIRTUAL ETHNOGRAPHY DIFFERENT #sm2ROIseries Versus • Research questions guide the process • Iterative process • Cultural understanding defines keywords • Contextualizing snippets • Hand collected & software collected data • Analyzed by software & researchers © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 8 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  9. 9. Virtual Ethnography in Market Research THE APPROACH 9
  10. 10. @THEPEEPS VIRTUAL ETHNOGRAPHY #sm2ROIseries Four week study that combined Social Media monitoring with virtual ethnography in order to identify how people were talking about Peeps online, a deeper understanding of their costumers, and opportunities for the Peeps brand • Seasonal • Not as seasonal Traditional Culture Fan Culture • “Intended” usage • Inventive & creative usage • Strong feelings of nostalgia • Hobbies & entertainment or hate • Media (& conversations) • Conversations • Dioramas • Colors • Microwave videos • Shapes • Photographs all over the • Flavors world • Ways to eat them © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 10 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  11. 11. DEFINE THE PROBLEM #sm2ROIseries articulate a clear and actionable brief that creates a framework for the insight – the problem can be about a population or a specific topic (for instance a product) or online space FIND THE PEOPLE define the participants that can most effectively shed light on the questions PLAN THE APPROACH agree on an agenda that includes the mode of data collection – this keeps the team focused during data collection but is flexible enough to allow for ad hoc opportunities and paths © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 11 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  12. 12. COLLECT THE DATA #sm2ROIseries leverage social media monitoring tools, like SM2, to help you collect and manage the vast amounts of data available on the social web & hand collect data as needed Qualitative Research Desk Research Participant Interaction Observation • Basic facts & figures • Lurk to get a feel for the • Lay of the land culture • Competitor ecosystems • Do not disturb the culture by • Background information the presence of a researcher, a focus group facility, a discussion guide, etc. • Interact with questions with the permission of the group © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 12 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  13. 13. COLLECT THE DATA: USING SM2 #sm2ROIseries •Search terms were added Using SM2 to "Peeps Show" AND "chick" "Peeps" AND "Peeps" AND "microwave" "dancing" as the researchers learned collect data from "Peeps" AND "Serious "Peeps" AND "test*" AND more about the cultures all social media Eats" AND "mockery" "marshmallow" "Peeps" "Peeps" AND "diorama" platforms with the AND "game" "Peeps" AND "toy*" AND •Social media monitoring following search "Peeps" AND "Washington Post“ "marshmallow" "Peeps" AND "Easter“ tools make the data terms: "Peeps" AND "Peep off" "Peeps" AND "travel" AND "Peeps" AND "product" AND "chick" quantifiable "Ann Arbor" AND "Peeps" "bunny" "Peeps" AND "Peeps" AND "experiment*“ "Peeps" AND "forum“ "purse*" "Peeps" AND "website" "Peeps" AND "geek*" "Peeps" AND "recipe*" AND "marshmallow" “Peeps" AND "community“ "Peeps" AND "color" AND "Peeps" AND "factory tour” "Peeps" AND "gift" AND "taste“ "basket" "Peeps" AND "research" "Peeps" AND "haiku" AND "expand" "Peeps" AND "chicks" AND "Peeps“ "cooking*" AND “bunnies” AND “Peeps” "marshmallow" "Peeps" AND "holiday*" "Peeps" AND "seasonal" AND "marshmallow" "Peeps" AND "cosmetics" Total results "Just Born" AND "candies" AND "marshmallow“ found are: AND "peeps" "Peeps" AND "song*" "Peeps" AND "jousting" "Peeps" AND "culture*" 16,414 results "Just Born" AND "candy" AND "marshmallow“ within date AND "peeps" "Peeps in "Peeps" AND "spoof*" Places" AND "marshmallow" range: 3/22 – "Peeps" AND "Peeps" AND "dance" 4/6 "marshmallow" "Peeps" AND "stationery" © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 13 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  14. 14. TAKE IT OFFLINE #sm2ROIseries validate your findings through more traditional methods like focus groups; this also gives you the opportunity to compare and contrast what is found online and offline (which can sometimes be surprising!) Large amounts of data Participant Hypotheses Observation Theories Interacting Etc, etc. Test hypotheses and verify theories: In-depth interviews Focus groups Day-in-the-life-of Etc, etc © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 14 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  15. 15. ANALYZE AND INTERPRET OPPORTUNITIES dive into the insights with workshops. In the end, tell stories with a clear set of „A-Ha‟s and next steps) Day-in-the- Personas life-of Slideshow of artifacts Who Segments of conversations Analysis of Topic and sentiment How What word frequencies Analysis Why When Conversation analysis Events Where Contextualize Time analysis conversations of conversations List of hot Ecosystem sites © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 15 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  16. 16. ANLAYSIS THROUGH AN ETHNOGRAPHIC FRAMEWORK #sm2ROIseries Fan culture is the culture made up of fans of brands & products. These fans create art, which takes a variety of forms, from the products that they love so much. Fan culture represents the love of the product as well as the comradery amongst the fans. Identity & Involvement Belonging & Performance Knowledge Fan Culture © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 16 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  17. 17. ANALYZE : TRADITIONAL VS. FAN CULTURES #sm2ROIseries The fan culture audiences express themselves online through video & photos whereas the traditional audience is more likely to have written conversations online Traditional Culture conversations share of voice 5088 3115 1627 1581 1362 509 24 Microblog Blog Mainstreams Forum Social Network Video/Phot Wiki 1203 774 482 347 153 123 26 Video/photos Microblog Mainstreams Blog Social network Forum Wiki Fan Culture conversations share of voice © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 17 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  18. 18. ANALYZE: THE TRADITIONAL CULTURE #sm2ROIseries “Peeps are amazing... and as bill said, stale ones are very good too! They're great if you put 'em in the microwave for like 15 seconds and let them get soft and big, then eat them!” <Bobby Gratz> (I Hate Peeps! - Facebook) Ways to eat Peeps Peeps favorite Are Peeps just for colors and Easter? shapes “@JenOgden *handing you a pink, chick PEEP* “My opinion on peeps varies. I used to Traditional Enjoy & Happy Easter!!! (I like the purple bunny loved them - stale - now not so much. But I Culture Peeps Peeps) teehee” love them toasted/roasted. Mmmm! Perfection. I don't know if I'll be eating any conversations this time. I haven't eaten candy in about a 543969430 month …” <jenjie> (“I have to ask--peeps or no peeps the marshmallow-y things” - ) © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 18 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  19. 19. ANALYZE: DEEP DIVING INTO FAN CULTURE ACTIVITIES Peeps in microwave No Other Taste 190 YouTube videos and still counting reason 6% better 12% 9% The number of views for these videos Fun are 2,841,589; with 11,213 54% comments. Gross 19% peeps are gross. they deserve that (AndrewKalember – YouTube audience) oh my gosh that looked so gross but FUNNY!!! XD though i feel bad for them now. i microwaved a peep and it almost exploded the fluff came out the side..... i'm gonna post it XD XD as soon as my computer lets me (MewBerrylvy – YouTube audience) video “Three PeepsRIGHTS RESERVEDIn A Microwave Oven” (745 comments) © INTREPID 2010 ALL In A Basket... 19
  20. 20. ANALYZE: FAN CULTURE & MICROWAVES, WHY DO THEY DO IT? #sm2ROIseries Inexpensive on clearance Taste better Hobby Microwave Peeps Curiosity Dislike Peeps Easter time (non religious) Entertaining ritual © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 20 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  21. 21. SHARE THE INSIGHT: FAN CULTURE PROFILE #sm2ROIseries finally, work hard to make the outputs accessible, engaging, and meaningful Shelly S is a female librarian from New York She has 57 peeps photos which attracted 5945 views in total. And all of these photos are classified as fan culture The concept of her photos are toys/food diorama 21
  22. 22. ANOTHER MAIN STREAM BRAND WITH A FAN CULTURE #sm2ROIseries Traditional Culture Duck Tape duct tape is a great Fan Culture example of a company embracing the naturally occurring fan culture and making a profitable product that appeals to the fan culture population without disrupting the traditional consumers. Sales go through different Stain.html channels © INTREPID, An Alterian Company http://yuni- 22 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 0/03/duct-tape-prom.html
  23. 23. SHARE THE INSIGHT: RECOMMENDING NEXT STEPS #sm2ROIseries How can the fan culture of Peeps be leveraged by the brand? How can we reach What are they doing? Who are these people? them? What draws Why do they What do they Online Social In-store Seasonal Year-Round Projects them to the Events like Peeps? need from us? Media Products culture? Merchandise that Just Born can create around the Peeps brands that will serve the Fan Culture while not disrupting the Traditional Culture © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 23 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  24. 24. ADDITIONAL VIRTUAL ETHNOGRAPHY USAGE #sm2ROIseries True brand Market Analysis Messaging sentiment •How people •Listening to •How people are learning consumer talk about the languages conversations brand when no online (positive & one is asking •If a traditional negative) them offline about the •Influencers, publisher has product communities, an opportunity •Testing individuals in online messages with •Contextualizing products offline focus this with offline groups conversation © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 24 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  25. 25. Intrepid, An ALTERIAN Company WWW.THINKINTREPID.COM 25
  26. 26. ABOUT THE PRESENTERS Jen Cardew Kersey has had an interest in virtual ethnography since finishing up her MS degree in applied anthropology at the University of North Texas. She has since discovered an unrealized love for market research. Jen has been involved in various virtual ethnography projects and has presented her findings to a variety of audiences. John Song was founder and CEO of Intrepid Consultants , which was recently acquired by Alterian . At Intrepid, he worked to provide actionable insights from social media data. Before his days at Intrepid, John founded a web analytics consultancy that was later sold to the digital agency Ascentium . Prior to that, he was a minority co-founder and managing director (EMEA) for Noetix , a business intelligence software company. © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 26 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  27. 27. How can you use virtual ethnography to gain insight for your marketing needs? #sm2ROIseries Jen Cardew Kersey @JenKersey John Song @JohnSong
  28. 28. VIRTUAL ETHNOGRAPHY FAQs Research • Determine which methodologies will be best suited to inform and answer which research questions – virtual ethnography is questions well suited to at least inform most research questions Determine where • Intrepid‟s research team is able to apply their expert knowledge of the internet and culture to help navigate the abundance of to go info online Participate and • Intrepid knows what types of conversations need to be captured, where we should participate and what should be represented in observe the sample Determine what‟s • It takes skill and experience to wade through abundant amounts relevant & of information and not become biased. It‟s significant if it might significant answer a research question Collect & • Intrepid organizes a representative sample of artifacts organize (multimedia) in an online catalog to aid analysis and to be used artifacts as an on-going living archive Knowing what‟s • Just like any other qualitative method, a trained researcher will know when they have enough data- new themes will stop enough emerging and the researcher intuition kicks in © INTREPID, An Alterian Company 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 28