New Research Project: Social Media in Segmentation

In this post, news about a research project that I am developing at the moment. But before that, apologies for the delay in posting… Contrary to common perception, an academic’s work does not stop (or, indeed, slow down) when there is no teaching. There are assignments to mark, module reports to prepare and dissertations to supervise; there is writing to do, presentations to put together, conferences to attend and meetings. Lots of them.

Exciting news!
I was awarded a small research grant to investigate the potential of social media in customer segmentation.

Put simply, segmentation consists of dividing the market in smaller, distinctive groups, with homogeneous characteristics. Once the different groups are identified, the firm can develop differentiated approaches according to the preferences and the revenue potential of each group. More information here.

Why now?
Increasingly, individuals resist disclosing information to commercial organisations. This resistance could be due to privacy concerns or simply because we are tired of answering yet another survey. At the same time, however, there is a wealth of personal information online, on social media sites, about the customers themselves or their consumption experiences and motivations. The popular press regularly reports on more and cleverer ways of using social media to reach out to customers – even law enforcement is using Social Media tools such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to identify, locate and prosecute criminals.

It is not surprising, then, that marketers are redirecting considerable portions of their marketing spend towards Social Media initiatives. In the academic literature, too, there are growing calls to integrate Social Media in research. However, the abundance of web 2.0-related data is such that, trying to make sense of it has been compared to drinking water from a fire hose (for instance, here). Therefore, it is imperative to find a way to judge whether the data available is, actually, any good.

That is the purpose of the project.

The project’s goal and next steps
The project’s goal is to assess the potential value of Social Media data in segmentation. Ultimately, the project will offer a lens for understanding information quality in Social Media.

The first stage of the research project is to develop a suitable conceptual framework. This is now well underway and I have been very lucky to engage the interest of colleagues in the UK and abroad. For instance, Jan Kietzmann and I have been discussing the suitability of a particular framework from Information Systems. This discussion led to the production and submission of a conference paper with our initial ideas.

Later, the framework will be validated with marketing managers working in segmentation, before it is applied to social media data. As soon as I get clearance from the University Research Ethics Committee and recruit a research assistant, the fieldwork can begin. If you would like to participate – or know someone who would – please let me know (comment box or e-mail).

It is a really exciting project. One that, I believe, is very relevant for both academia and practice. It is also a very challenging venture as everyday there is an important development to keep abreast of. Is there a paper that you think we should definitely consider? Please share the details in the comments box below or by e-mail.

To be kept informed about the project, subscribe to the mailing list. Mailings will be limited to one per month.

UPDATE:
I teamed up with Paul Fennemore and Moira Clark to explore how social media is challenging market segmentation strategies. Find out more about the project here.

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