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November 3rd, 2011
Measuring Buzz: Best Practices for “Social Listening”
Today advertisers are not only mastering the art of speaking through social media channels, they are also exploring ways to listen and learn. But while "social listening" or "social media monitoring" can yield valuable market data, these practices also raise privacy and ethical concerns.
To help marketers navigate this important frontier, The Council of American Survey Research Organizations ("CASRO") recently issued social media research guidelines (the "Guidelines"). While the Guidelines are not laws, and are not even mandated by CASRO to its members, they are designed to establish best practices for research and observation in the social media space.
In particular, the Guidelines provide a framework for organizations seeking to glean market intelligence data from the social media world. The focus is on the collection of data from social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, blogs, and other online fora where consumers share information) for market, opinion or research purposes (as opposed to, say, customer service purposes). So, for brands and agencies seeking to comb social media websites to find out what consumers are saying about them, the Guidelines may prove helpful.
The Guidelines include the following:
- It is critical to review the terms of each website to ensure that collecting data from and about users on the site, particularly through the use of automated means, such as spiders, is not forbidden. Note that some social media websites may object to researchers actually copying material from the social media websites onto the researchers’ computer system for further analysis;
- Personally identifiable information ("PII") collected in such research should not be used for direct marketing, sales, advertising, etc., or be used to take any direct action towards the participant;
- When there is direct contact between participants and researchers (e.g., posing questions via a public blog, etc.), researchers should obtain informed consent and provide transparency regarding what is collected, who is collecting it, and how the collected information will be used;
- If collecting any information without explicitly notifying the participant (e.g., employing a script that scans Facebook for references to a brand, etc.), researchers should have a reasonable basis to conclude that online participants would be aware that the information they provide on the social media site could be viewed by anyone with relative ease. (Of course opinions may still differ as to what constitutes a "reasonable basis".);
- Researchers must take reasonable precautions to protect data that is collected and must take particular care when carrying out research among children and young people; and
- A researcher’s right to collect and use information will depend upon whether the information collected is in a "Public Space," "Private Space" or "Market, Opinion and Social Research Space" (see the definitions in the Guidelines, page 8). In particular, "masking" of the content (changing the raw data to protect the source identity) may be appropriate, depending on the ultimate use/sharing of the information.
Of course, any entity conducting this social listening would also be wise to review relevant regulations and laws (especially regarding privacy) which may impose even stricter standards than the Guidelines.
In sum, while social listening techniques can be extremely helpful in evaluating "buzz," advertisers should proceed with caution. If you have any questions on this topic or any other advertising matter, please contact Terri Seligman at (212) 826 5580 or email@example.com or any other member of the Frankfurt Kurnit Advertising Group.
Disclaimer. This alert provides general coverage of its subject area. We provide it with the understanding that Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz is not engaged herein in rendering legal advice, and shall not be liable for any damages resulting from any error, inaccuracy, or omission. Our attorneys practice law only in jurisdictions in which they are properly authorized to do so. We do not seek to represent clients in other jurisdictions.
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