How do you get insight into the success of new tablets? Trevor
Godman and Michael Allenson look at how bringing social media
into market analysis can help brand owners optimise their
Samsung Galaxy's reputation by publication since October 15
BlackBerry Playbook versus Samsung Galaxy Tab
Importance of features and perceived
Average opinion score (vertical axis) for all devices against
of responses (horizontal)
There was no shortage of new tablet computing devices unveiled
at the Consumer Electronics Show at the start of this year.
Neither was there a shortage of predictions about how these new
products will impact the tablet market and its current dominant
player, the Apple iPad.
Some industry watchers say that it's too early to tell what
impact these new products will have. But, maybe not?
Established products don't require market research to identify
whether a product is a raving success or an utter failure. But,
for new products, social media monitoring coupled with survey
research can help product managers and marketers maximize
success and make well-founded, informed decisions.
We have learned that when it comes to purchasing new consumer
technologies such as tablet computers or smartphones, US
consumers are now relying more on online content to help them
decide what they should buy. Recently, Maritz Research and its
social media monitoring subsidiary, evolve24, set out to
understand how traditional online and social media are
influencing growth and consumers' purchase decisions in the
tablet and smartphone categories.
We monitored online media and surveyed over 3,000 US consumers
from October to December 2010. The focus was the nascent tablet
market as well as the evolving smartphone market.
The consumer survey looked at the awareness and consideration
of tablets and smart phones among those who recently purchased
or plan to in the near future, asking about devices that are
currently available, as well as items that have been announced,
but not yet released.
To identify these buyers, Maritz and evolve24 used a
combination of social media identification - looking for users
mentioning they were interested in or buying the phones on
Twitter or Facebook - and surveys done among consumer panels.
How does a product get high levels of consideration without
having done any advertising or other direct-to-consumer
marketing? We found that social media can act as an amplifier
for launch, and that the reach and potential influence of
individual "prosumers" can shape the success of product
In the survey, we asked consumers how they learn about products
and what sources are influential in driving their
For tablets, as well as for smartphones, review websites are a
crucial source of information that consumers are using to help
shape their product choices. This includes blogs, forums, and
social networks as well as "professional" review sites - and
even these are chock-full of reader comments and opinions.
For tablets, review sites rank second in importance behind only
word of mouth from friends and family.
The social media conversation is incredibly diverse, and all
online commentators are not equal. Weighting the online
comments appropriately to identify trusted influencers for each
audience segment adds an extra dimension of predictive power.
Evolve24 identifies and tracks the views of opinion-formers,
including both media experts and influential prosumers.
In the case of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, launched in October
2010, this measurement revealed that, while viewers were
generally pretty positive, the most cutting-edge consumers were
If Samsung had managed to convince these "influentials", then
they might have been even more successful in building interest
in the Galaxy Tab.
Social media monitoring of the BlackBerry Playbook and the Dell
Streak show that, in advance of their launch, both products are
Survey data quantifies the level of interest in their products
generated during this period. Sentiment in social media can be
compared with survey data to determine the degree to which the
social media conversation reflects the buying population.
Neither product has been advertised directly to the consumer.
Both products were "announced" with a campaign focused on
channel partners and influencers. Yet purchase interest in the
BlackBerry Playbook reaches double digits in November, only to
fall off in December. Since the buzz peaked well before the
product was launched, it may not have the impact of a more
Products can and do generate both buzz and purchase intent
among consumers based on PR and other launch-focused
communication alone - as in the case of the BlackBerry
Playbook. In part, this is a function of consumers being
influenced by social media - and consulting social media for
information, just as they have always consulted trusted friends
and family members.
Monitoring social media conversations, the impact these
conversations over time, and mapping that against corporate
advertising and public relations efforts can help a company
assess the success of its efforts and hone its launch formula
to maximize success.
Marketers interested in a successful product launch must
capitalize on this social media support. Key questions to
• How soon before I launch my product should I begin
• Who are my core influencers, including key commentators,
bloggers, tweeters and conversational early
In our survey we ask which features are most important in
making their decision to choose a specific product brand. But
relative importance is not enough. A product manager needs to
understand whether their products are perceived to be superior
or differentiated from competition on features that are
important to consumers.
The grid (chart 3) shows those features that consumers say are
most important in choosing between the tablets available and
the degree of differentiation they perceive on those
The look and feel of the device is the one of the most
important features and it is also one of the most
differentiating. This may reflect the early stage of this
product category and the high level of innovation - people
wanting to look cool with an iPad. Over time this feature may
or may not remain important or highly differentiated.
Screen size is the third most important feature for tablets,
but is far less differentiating than ease of use or the look
and feel of the device. Conversely, operating system is ranked
less important, but is highly differentiated.
Until recently, operating system simply didn't matter in
phones, but with the rise of apps for purchase and other
software and services that are OS-specific, and strong degree
of perceived differentiation this is a potential area for
marketers to exploit.
Social media can assess which features are being talked about,
how much volume there is and whether positive stories are being
told. And because insight can be obtained from social media in
real time, this gives a product manager the power to be
hyper-responsive in fine-tuning campaigns.
Chart 4 shows that BlackBerry Playbook Applications are heavily
discussed in social media and the sentiment is generally
positive. Conversely, the conversation about the Galaxy Tab
camera is more negative.
Integrating social media monitoring alongside more conventional
survey data provides significant insight into how successfully
a new product's benefits are being communicated to the market -
and how the impact of comments around key topics stacks up
against competitor products.
Combining what is being said online with other types of
research gives brand owners a particularly valuable and
up-to-the moment picture of the market, as in the case of the
tablet. We, therefore, urge marketers to maximise insight by
integrating all the sources of information available to
Trevor Godman and Michael Allenson are with Maritz Research and
worked with evolve24, Maritz's social media monitoring
subsidiary, on this article