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The Triangulation of Truth


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How social media is redefining the approach to research.
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The Triangulation of Truth

  1. 1. The triangulation oftruthHow social media is redefining the approachto researchWhite paper | June 2011
  2. 2. Shikatani Lacroix is a leading branding and design firm located inToronto, Canada. The company wins commissions from all aroundthe world, across CPG, retail and service industries, helping clientsachieve success within their operating markets. It does this byenabling its clients’ brands to better connect with consumersthrough a variety of core services including corporate identity,naming and communication, brand experience, packaging, retail,wayfinding and product design.About the AuthorJean-Pierre Lacroix, R.G.D., President and Founder ofShikatani LacroixJean-Pierre (JP) Lacroix provides leadership and direction to hisfirm, which was founded in 1990. He has spent the last 30 yearshelping organizations better connect their brands with consumersin ways that impact the overall performance of their business. Mr.Lacroix was the first to coin and trademark the term “Blink Factor”in 1990, which today is a cornerstone principle of how brandssucceed in the marketplace. JP has authored several papers, andhas been quoted in numerous branding and design articles. In 2001,he co-authored the book “The Business of Graphic Design,” whichhas sold over 10,000 copies. His latest book is titled “BelongingExperiences: Designing Engaged Brands.” JP can be reached and you can follow his blogs and Articles and BooksBelonging Experiences: Designing Engaged BrandsBusiness of Graphic DesignWhite paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 1
  3. 3. The triangulation of truth through social mediaThe conventional definition of a triangulation of truth is the use ofresearch that takes into account perspectives from different sourcepoints to ensure a higher degree of accuracy in both the informationand its predictability. In the medical profession, for example, certaintypes of research could represent a combination of insights gainedfrom the customer through sales data from the sales force, researchwith physicians who prescribe the medication, in additionto attitudes and behaviours from actual patients. In otherinstances, the research would focus on the conative,cognitive and emotive behaviours to determine howconsumers would respond to a given offer or product.Through this triangulation of information, researchershistorically were able to derive a vector that is closest tothe actual truth.With the meteoric rise of social media over the past tenyears, a new definition of the triangulation of truth isemerging, providing researchers and marketers with amore relevant and accessible tool to gauge consumerattitudes and behaviours. This new approach is less prone tobias influences and benefits from the strength in numbers foundwithin an online community of two billion active users. Anotherdimension of the triangle is the advent of fact based measurementtools in organizations as a means to make the right businessdecisions quickly and with a high degree of predictability. Today, theleadership of most organizations is under extreme pressure toensure their quarterly earnings meet investors’ expectations. This hasbecome a greater challenge in today’s economic climate with theshift of power from companies to consumers. The final tangent ofthe triangle investigates how conventional research is beingcommoditized through online tools and social media networks.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 2
  4. 4. Putting the triangulation of truth in perspectiveMarketing research has historically been defined by the systematicinvestigation of insights that lead to new conclusions. And the needfor insights has only grown stronger. The market research industryachieved 11-12% annual growth, reaching a value of US$39.7 billionin 2009 (source: Outsell’s second annual MarketView report). Thiswhite paper will explore how we gain these learnings, and howsocial media will both impact and enhance our traditional approachto research.We are not predicting the end of research as we know it, butinvestigating how organizations are leveraging a combination of newtools to guide their daily marketing and business activities.Conventional research is no longer the sole tool that organizationsleverage as they implement their plans and investments.For this reason we will be exploring the intersection of social mediawith fact-based business decisions and the commoditization ofconsumer insights to examine how they are impacting the future ofresearch, namely:1. The predictive power of social media2. Marketers’ growing hunger for fact-based decisions3. The need for speed in decision making4. Shifts in approach for researchersWhite paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 3“Ultimately,brands need tohave a role insociety. The bestway to have arole in society isto understandhow people aretalking aboutthings in realtime.”Jean-Philippe Maheu,Chief Digital Officer atOgilvy
  5. 5. Why is social media impacting how we conduct research?Over the last several months, we have seen the true power of socialmedia as a tool to suppress oppression. In the case of Egypt, 2million Facebook groups and tweets incited a social media revolutionwhich ended the presidency of Hosni Mubarak.What could not be accomplished for decades was completed in lessthan eighteen days thanks to crowd clout and social media toolssuch as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You could argue that Mr.Mubarak relied poorly on research and was tracking the wrongmetrics using traditional research tools. Had his leadership teambeen more astute in social media chatter, or incorporated learningsfrom the triangulation of truth that takes into consideration theeconomic instability of the country, they would have realized monthsin advance that their popularity was in serious jeopardy. I am notsure the final outcome would have changed but they could have hadgreater warning of impeding unrest and disrupted the use of socialmedia tools, as countries such as Bahrain and China have done. Ibelieve these events are the tipping point for how marketers gainmarket insights and statistical information to help them betterpredict consumer behaviour. These changes will have a significantimpact on the research industry and the marketing industry forgenerations to come.By putting the influence of social media into focus, we realize thatthere is an emergence of organizations such as Communispace, aleader in online consumer insights communities for market research,that are pioneering its use and legitimizing its importance for someof the largest brands in the world (as I write this white paper, thebehemoth Omnicom is completing the acquisition of Communispacefor $40 million).White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 4“Many managersthink they’vecommitted theirorganizations toevidence-baseddecision making— but haveinstead, withoutrealizing it,committed todecision-basedevidencemaking.”Peter M. Tingling, CEO atOctothorpe SoftwareCorporation
  6. 6. Is conventional research truly unbiased?To understand the true importance of social media as a predictivetool, we first need to review why current research tools arebecoming less effective at gaining insights. Traditional research hasrelied on both the experience of the researcher, the appropriatenessof tools such as online quantitative studies or qualitative focusgroups and ethnography studies, in addition to the right profile ofrespondents that form part of the study. The challenge today forresearchers is consumers that are jaded when it comes to studies;they reflect new behaviours that are harder to grasp fromconventional analytical tools.Conventional research by its nature is also biased since we are pre-qualifying individuals to already have a predisposition to participatein research. In their white paper “Tutorials in clinical research: Part IV:Recognizing and controlling bias,” doctors J.M Hartman, J.W.Foreseen, M.S. Wallace and J.G Neely of Washington UniversitySchool of Medicine identified a wider range of biases that impact theaccuracy and predictability of research:• Selection/sampling bias: occurs through omission when certaingroups are omitted from the study, or inclusive bias whererespondents are selected by convenience• Procedural bias: when time pressure is applied to therespondents• Measurement bias: typically these arise in errors in datacollection and the process of measuring• Interviewer bias: common in qualitative research when theinterviewers give subtle clues with body language or tone ofvoice. This has been defined as “leading the respondents.”• Response bias: when a respondent consciously, orsubconsciously, tells the interviewer what he or she thinks theywant to hear.• Reporting bias: where an error is made in the way the results aredisseminated in the report.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 5
  7. 7. Social media, the true voice of the customerIn contrast, social media, by its nature, is not biased since it relies onthe opinions of millions of people who are not influenced by who ismoderating the chatter or discussion. Due to its viral nature,marketers and researchers lack the ability to truly influence theoutcome of the discussion. Due to the size and speed of a socialnetwork, it’s also almost impossible to control or shut down theprocess after it has been initiated.According to, approximately 2 billionpeople use the internet to access knowledge and information, andusage has grown by 444.8% in the past ten years with a totalpopulation penetration of 28.7%. This has made the internet themost pervasive tool in gaining insights and knowledge for marketersand researchers. Social networking growth is on a steep incline withFacebook reaching over 400 million users worldwide and Twittergarnering 50 million tweets per day. Facebook and Twitter’s triple-digit growth in social networking is accounting for 11% of all timespent online. As the usage of social media is increasing, so is theamount of time people are spending online. A report from TheNielsen Company showed there has been an increase of 82% in timespent on social networking sites. Across the globe over the past year,average time spent on social networking sites grew from 3 hours to5.5 hours per month. In addition, there has been a significant shift onhow people search online, with YouTube displacing Google as thepreferred search portal. The growth of YouTube demonstrates thatpeople today are much more visually oriented, preferring to viewversus read information online. This will have a significant impact onthe questionnaire’s intensive quantitative research methodology asconsumers are more reluctant to spend their online time goingthrough tedious questionnaires. However, through the right socialmedia tool, the questionnaire provides a platform for marketers toreach a global community quickly and efficiently.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 6
  8. 8. The growth of fact-based decisions?In 2009, BusinessWeek Research Services (BWRS) conducted astudy to determine the attitudes and opinions of executives inthe use and importance of business analytics, as part of a cultureof proactive evidence-based decision-making.The findings identified that among C-level executives there isstrong agreement (83%) that the importance of usinginformation to effectively run a business has never been greater.This need has been accelerated by the market’s uncertainty ofthe past three years and the potential turbulent times ahead. Thestudy identified the following:• Executives are looking to derive greater value from existingcustomer relationships and work on customer retention—amore cost-effective method of customer management.• The focus on customer retention and expanding relationshipswith the existing customer base has seen a strong increase inthe last year.• Customer retention and management have become moredifficult than ever as consumers are being forced to bettermanage their spending and amplify their savings in a highlyconstrained environment.• Business analytics can have a significant impact on expandingexisting customer relationships, customer serviceimprovements and customer retention.• Business analytics enable companies to develop agilestrategies that allow them to adapt to changing customerbehaviours and achieve their business goals.The shift of power, the complexity of the fragmented marketingenvironment, and the increasing pressure by boards formarketing expenditure accountability are also factors that haveraised the need for fact-based decision making.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 7“What getsmeasured getsdone, what getsmeasured andfed back getsdone well, whatgets rewardedgets repeated”John E. Jones!"#$%&#$%!#$(#$#$!"#$%&($)%*+,$-"$."&$/01)020$+$/&3)4033$+4+1.53$+**6"+($#"&1-$(+20$"4$,(0$7"11"#)48$+60+39$:30$3+10$#(060;$<$=$>"$?%*+,@$A$=$B)84)C+4,$)%*+,$D&3,"%06$3062)0$)%*6"20%04,3$D&3,"%06$1".+1,.E60,045"4$FG*+4-)48$0G)3548$&3,"%06$601+5"43()*3$H6))48$"*5%)I+5"4$>0#$&3,"%06$+J&)3)5"4$BusinessWeek Research Services (BWRS)April 2009
  9. 9. Making better decisions faster?Over the years, organizations have gained a wealth of informationabout their customers and how they use their products. Leadingfirms have learned to harness this information and to constantlymonitor and evolve its implications as consumers shift in behaviourand market needs. This focus on the facts has substituted thehistorical reliance on assumptions, anecdotal stories and the solereliance of gut feelings when plotting their organization’s course ofaction. Organizations have realized that understanding theircustomers is the best way to make the right business decision thatwill minimize risk.Software companies such as Microsoft and Oracle (Siebel) haverealized that organizations need to embrace a new form of businessintelligence that leverages key measurements, insights and marketintelligence to help organizations make better decisions faster, withmore predictable outcomes. They have crafted tools such as keyperformance dashboards and decision-making models that reflecthow a four-stage cycle of learning plays a critical role in acceleratingdecisions. This starts with measurements, followed by analysis, thatare easily understood by organizations, and leads to meaningfulinsights that support focused actions. No other investment spendinghas come under such scrutiny as marketing budgets, as seniormanagement is challenged to clearly define the ROI. Dashboards areviable tools to measure what have traditionally been hard to validate– expenditures.The implications to the research industry are considerable asorganizations shift some of their investments from conventionalresearch to software-based measurement tools that provide anaccurate dashboard on the success of programs and marketinginitiatives.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 8
  10. 10. The commoditization of researchAs in all industries, as the use of services accelerates so does theknowledge of the buyer and their ability to separate what is valuedversus what is perceived as a commodity. We have seen a rapid riseof easy-to-use online research tools that bring a high level ofsophistication to marketers at a fraction of the cost. I doubt thesetools will ever replace the need for professionally driven research.What they will do is reduce the occasions that such research isconducted, reducing the level of activity within the industry.Sites such as,,, and, to namejust a few, offer companies and marketers access to a wide range ofonline research tools, such as simple customer satisfaction surveys,employee questionnaires and polls. These sites boast some of thelargest corporations as clients who use their services. Anotherdimension is the rise of the “Get Paid Survey” online source forpaid survey panels, where respondents can register to participateon a wide range of studies as a means to earn additional income.Both these industries are driving what I believe is the bigger trend,the development of online communities devoted to sharing theirinsights around a given topic or cause. Websites such positions itself as part of an online marketresearch community with over 2 million members worldwide.PermissionResearch relies on its members to provide valuable insightinto Internet trends and behaviour. Another service is Rockbridge,which promotes itself as an interactive application using social mediadata collection tools. These organizations and their offerings are atthe forefront of the convergence of social media and research, givingtheir clients decision-making advantages over their competitors.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 9
  11. 11. Of these many organizations, I find Toluna of great interest as itdemonstrates that you can participate in the commoditization of theresearch industry while remaining a strong supporter of the sector.According to the company’s website, Toluna services marketresearch professionals in more than 600 companies worldwide,providing sample and custom panels – 2.5 million active members in30 countries, profiled into 16 specialist panels – that reach nichesegments for premium quality survey research data.Toluna also provides a PanelPortal service consisting ofa highly robust and scalable hosted technologyplatform enabling research professionals to easily build,manage and run their own online panel communitiesand surveys. Where social media and research mergesis through their QuickSurveys, self-service surveys of upto five questions, served on, the world’s firstsocial research web 2.0 network.According to Wikipedia, social media measurementrefers to the tracking of various social media contentsuch as blogs, wikis, micro-blogs, social networkingsites, video/photo sharing websites, forums, messageboards, and all other user-generated content as a wayfor marketers to determine the volume and sentimentaround a brand or topic in social media. There are bothfree entry-level tools and enterprise platforms availablefor use by digital marketers and PR professionals.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 10
  12. 12. There has also been an explosion of these research tools withinsocial media sites to track levels of engagement, participation andcontent preference. These tools range from free online services suchas Hootsuite (Canadian firm), Google, Buzz and Twitter Search, tomore expensive paid services such as Radian6. The Social MediaMonitoring Wiki identified over 150 such sites available to marketers.One of these sites is, which provides a very in-depth analysis of what is being said about your brand.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 11
  13. 13. The convergence towards the truthThe new dimensions of the triangulation of truth support theimportance of just-in-time relevant insights. It provides a greatopportunity for research firms to evolve their proposition by beingcloser to how consumers share their insights. In his new book “SocialMedia Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your MarketingInvestment,” Jim Sterne identifies a range of insight venues availableto researchers and marketers:• Focused Grievances: customers sharing views on companies hasbeen a popular platform for social media usage so it’s a greatvehicle to understand what people are saying about your brand,campaign or marketing initiative. Today, marketers put a lot ofimportance on the social buzz that emanates through socialmedia about their campaigns.• Topic Trending: these tend to be driven by marketers wanting togain further insights on how to improve their product. It canconsist of a website devoted to the customization of products,such as Nike or Dell, to gather early indications of what productfeatures need to be eliminated or added. Or it could take theform of numerous mentions on social media networks aboutcertain product features that are either a vast improvement ormajor irritant.• Tantrum Tweeting: the ability of tweeting to the world in 140characters-or-less blasts has emerged as one of the mostpowerful insight tools available to marketers. Tracking thesetweets can create a by-the-second account of how your brand isdoing in the marketplace. These insights can be integrated aspart of research reports that either support or challengeconventional research approaches.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 12
  14. 14. • Crowdsource Ideas: either through panels or as part of onlinecommunities, you invite your loyal customers to provide designideas on how to make your product better. Organizations spendan enormous amount of investment to gain insights on how newproducts will fair in the marketplace based on variousconventional research tools. However, having an open dialoguewith a wide range of customers is one of the best ways to gaininsights on how to improve your offering. Dell leverages awebsite devoted to sharing ideas, whichlays the ground work for innovation and product improvement.My favourite site is the Pepsi Refresh program, where consumersare invited, as part of a social media initiative, to vote for thecommunity program they feel deserves funding by PepsiCo.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 13
  15. 15. A new way of approaching the factsFact-based decisions and social media will continue to evolve rapidlyand here are some principles that I was able to glean from suchorganizations as Communispace, Altimeter and the Web AnalyticsDemystified firm:• Smaller is better: the key to greater insights is having the rightpeople in a private, intimate setting.• Recruit wisely: finding the best community members who havespecial dynamics is key to effective insights• Don’t dominate: community facilitation isn’t easy. Offer youraudience something to talk about by creating a dialogue.• Innovation: social marketing activities will spur innovation.• Advocacy: help activate evangelism, word of mouth and thespread of information.• Business objectives and key performance indicators:White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 14“When our AXEcommunity givesfeedback on an ad,saying it won’t flywith AXE’s coredemographic, thevalue is immediate”Diane Tarr-Smith,Communispace VP ofMarketing
  16. 16. Are the social network citizens ready?Our firm initiated an online study with approximately 500 consumersacross Canada to understand their current online research habits todetermine if they participate in social media network drivenresearch. The study was limited to three key questions:• Have you ever responded to surveys within social medianetworks?• If you have answered yes to the previous question, pleaseidentify which social media network you participated within?• If you did participate, for what type of research?The research was open to anyone and our focus was based on theage of respondents. The study identified that women had a higherparticipation rate in this survey with 60% of all responses completedby women. More than 16% of respondents noted that theyparticipated in social media initiated research studies, while 28%mentioned that they had participated once or twice for those whohave participated several times, consumers age 16 to 34 ranked thehighest at 20.21% followed by the 35-54 age group at 13.36%. Incontrast, respondents age 55+ had the highest percentage at 72%for never participating in social media driven research. If we look atthe provincial structure of the respondents, their participation onsocial media research driven sites is approximately uniform, otherthan British Columbia which at 8% is almost half the nationalaverage. If you combine the respondents who participate in socialmedia driven research “several times” and “one or twice,” they tendto have a college or post-graduate degree.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 15!"#$%#&#Several timesOnce or twiceNever0 50 100 150 200Several timesOnce or twiceNever16-3435-5455 and up0 38 75 113 150Elementary SchoolMiddle School/Junior High SchoolHigh SchoolSome College/UniversityGraduated 2-year CollegeGraduated 4-year College/UniversityGraduate SchoolPostgraduatePrefer not to saySeveral timesOnce or twiceNeverHave you ever responded to surveyswithin social media networks?
  17. 17. Interestingly, based on the study findings, respondents who notedthat they participate in several social media studies are grouped bythose individuals with income levels of less than $40,000 and thosewith annual incomes above $100,000.Facebook is the true leader in terms of research participation,according to our survey, with over 50% of respondents (16-34 and35-54 age group) participating in research on this network. YouTube,which appealed to an older demographic, was a far second with anaverage of 10% mentioning this site for use in research. A significantportion of respondents (28% or more) mentioned others, indicatingthat online conventional research and other types of social medianetworks represent a significant percentage of online researchchannels.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 160%25%50%75%100%Under $15,000 $35,000-$39,999 $60,000-$64,999 $85,000-$89,999 $150,000-$199,999Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Plaxo YouTube Other
  18. 18. It is also interesting to note that more than half of respondentsmentioned participating in social media polls versus surveys, whichidentifies the need for researchers to shorten their questionnairelengths. Interestingly, YouTube, which has outranked Google as apopular search engine, did so poorly as consumers are looking atvisual ways to navigate their online searches.Based on the sample of respondents, it’s also worth noting thatsurveys tend to have a higher participation rate with youngerconsumers while older consumers tend to have a higher participationrate with polls. Income levels follow the same pattern as higherincome respondents are more receptive to participating in pollsversus surveys.Based on these very high level findings, we believe that researcherswill need to create more engaging approaches to research in orderto gain a higher level of participation. I would also suggest thatYouTube has truly under leveraged its opportunity to attractconsumers who are shifting from conventional, text-based studies tovideo content-driven research studies that leverage the power ofsocial media networks.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 170 15 30 45 6016-3435-5455 and upPoll Survey0 25 50 75 100Elementary SchoolMiddle School/Junior High SchoolHigh SchoolSome College/UniversityGraduated 2-year CollegeGraduated 4-year College/UniversityGraduate SchoolPostgraduatePrefer not to sayPoll Survey
  19. 19. ConclusionThe importance of fact-based decisions will continue to grow andplay a critical role in how organizations seek insights. Asorganizations gain a better understanding of social media networks,they will realize its full potential as a platform to engage theirsupporters and detractors to make better marketing decisions.Researchers will continue to play a role, but their involvement in thedecision-making mix will be directly related to their ability to harnessthe power of social networks to gain real-time relevant andmeaningful insights. The research firm of the future will leveragethese networks as part of their insights arsenal to gain greateractionable knowledge for their clients, ensuring they stay ahead ofthe commoditization curve. Ultimately, the strength of researchservices will be directly related to their ability to create proprietaryinsight networks for their clients. Firms such as Communispace andAltimeter have realized that the convergence of conventionalresearch and social media is here to stay and can help bring greatervalue to their clients.White paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 18
  20. 20. For more information, contact:Jean-Pierre Lacroix, PresidentShikatani Lacroix387 Richmond Street EastToronto, OntarioM5A 1P6Telephone: 416-367-1999Email: jplacroix@sld.comWhite paper | June 2011 | Triangulation of Truth | 19