Why “Social Studies”

A number of people have asked us over the years: why “Social Studies?”

Sure, it’s a play on words. After all, we are a company that specializes in using “social” media channels to conduct in-depth studies, research, and analysis of audiences and individuals. However, there’s more to our name than that.

You may think of social studies as a subject you took in junior high, but it’s not just  a class after lunch. It’s a way of viewing our world, and analyzing the interactions of people, culture, history, language, geography, politics, and religion. It’s seeing how those elements serve as catalysts in people’s lives and how they affect preferences, purchase decisions and the spread of knowledge and information.

This larger contextual awareness is at the core of our research approach, and central to what we do at the Social Studies Group.

When we begin a research process or a complex social media monitoring project, we understand that there are specific things that we want to know. Some of these are small consumer choices, such as: “what floor cleaner should I choose?” Others are major life decisions: “Where do I want to raise my family?” “Which car company represents my values?” “How does my home communicate my personal style?” and yet others are simply figuring out how to isolate conversations so that you can truly see the pertinent conversations.

Behind each of these are people and actual conversations, which are comprised of a number of competing and, sometimes, contradictory influences.

And don’t minimize the challenge of separating the real conversations from the bot and the marketer conversations.

Can learnings from social media studies inform our thinking?

In traditional primary research, such as focus groups and surveys, individuals are queried based upon their relationship to a particular set of choices or decisions. Researchers create situations in which they isolate factors and how these factors resonate with a selected audience.

In attempting to isolate these decisions, however, researchers alter the very nature of the decision (that Heisenberg uncertainty principle thing) . We ask people to tell us about how they choose which cereal to buy, when they aren’t in a grocery store, aren’t with their kids, and know they are being recorded.  We have taken them out of their context, and by doing so aren’t looking at a complete decision.

Social media offers the capability to engage with an audience in a way that recognizes them in their natural contexts.

Rather than seeking abstract answers in controlled conditions, we listen to people as they speak about topics in relationship to their real lives and real experiences. By studying the myriad of contextual factors, we see more than just someone’s thoughts on one product or decision. We see those decisions in relationship to a number of other parts of their lives.

We specialize in producing in-depth netnographies that seek a complete understanding of an audience base, by exploring the full range of influencers. We use a methodical research approach that balances robust data-gathering and quantitative analysis with a qualitative examination of the ideas and conversations that define individual choices…society included.