Validating Hunches with Consumer Intelligence

Kimberly Surico |
 06/02/23 |
5 min read

Validating Hunches with Consumer Intelligence

The abundance of data available today offers limitless potential for companies prepared to harness it, but many still rely on assumptions, which is dangerous. This data excess can create a deafening cacophony that’s impossible to decipher without sophisticated analytical capabilities. Validating hunches here is crucial, and entirely possible. And, with help from Troels Ringsted of The Mine Group, we will show you how!

In this two-part series, we interviewed Troels to learn how his company helps global brands and agencies bridge the gap between data and insights to identify untapped market opportunities.

How does the Mine Group use NetBase Quid®?

We use the Quid network to help clients make informed decisions. There are both practical and creative ways to use it. The practical angle involves figuring out topical drivers. We isolate sources with high engagement versus those with high publication counts, uncovering keywords and other items that can be practically applied, i.e., used to inform product design or in campaign messaging.

And then there’s the creative element which is all about supporting and validating client ideas. This might involve angling content to better resonate with a specific existing or upcoming narrative we’ve identified. The focus in on surfacing data to support or reimagine these ideas. Our clients will often have a gut feeling about something but need supporting proof to validate their arguments when they present them to their own clients. We find that proof for them.

Let’s talk idea validation in action—how does it work?

A client wanted to create content angled toward niche media. If we see a growing interest in blogs and such towards the topic in question, we can quantify that and help them validate the idea.

For example, assuming our topic was around sustainability, we could see specific subtopics within the larger conversation and where they were happening. And if we were seeking to reach farmers, we could drill down and discover specific content that resonated with (or about) this group. We’d also know precisely which blogs and forums to target.

sustainability conversation by source

How do you uncover niche topics and the subtle nuances found within?

The Quid network gives an excellent overview of whatever you search for, and you can slice and dice the data in whatever way you like. But we also use Boolean search functions and tag capabilities a lot.

When spotting trends, that could mean simple timelines. For example, you might see an area growing within a big topic like sustainability.

For example, below, we can see Blockchain Technology slowly gaining traction over time:

blockchain technology emerging trends

However, it would be best if you dissected it down into smaller chunks. By layering with tags, you can determine what drives a particular topic. It can reveal niche concerns you may not have discovered otherwise. (We’ll speak to tagging more in the example that follows.)

Has social intelligence led to any unexpected discoveries?

A few years ago, I was asked to research natural hair. And it became clear that outlier clusters were driving vast amounts of engagement. This engagement came from a story of a person being fired for their natural hair. At the same time, many celebrities were embracing their gray hair, emphasizing being their natural self.

The international media began reporting on it, with negative sentiment due to the firing. But there was also a blossoming discussion detailing people who couldn’t be their natural selves at work. This was an opportunity to generate positive discussion and flip the narrative.

How does one capture this sort of opportunity and use it to a client’s advantage?

The client at the time didn’t use the research beyond understanding its consumer base better—but they could have! Four years after the research, in fact, Dove came out with a powerful campaign that almost exactly mirrored what we’d uncovered.

Dove spoke about racial disparity and discrimination around natural hair. They took a negative and turned it into a positive. And this speaks to Quid’s predictive qualities—we used the tool to discover its potential well before it became a trend.

Below, we see the research created in 2019 to validate the natural hair conversation:

research validating natural hair conversation

And they also created a deep dive into related conversations. These clusters demonstrate different subtopics within the broader discussion on hair:

clusters demonstrate different subtopics within the broader discussion on hair

There were three primary areas of conversation: One focusing on celebrities and gray hair, another emphasizing haircare products and tips, and the third primarily centered on racial discrimination and acceptance of natural/curly hair.

That example speaks to white space opportunities—can you share a bit more about those?

We work a lot with white space on the scatterplot, looking for items with the right combination of publication count and engagement. For example, we try to find something that isn’t over-published but still has a kind of high consumer engagement. This is usually a good starting place.

Troels used a scatterplot to identify areas of opportunity during his research on hair. By pinpointing clusters or topics with a low publish count, but high engagement, he uncovered niche conversations among consumers.

social engagement vs published count on scatterplot

From there, we may investigate sentiments and ask, “What’s driving the positive discussion around this topic vs. the negative discussion?” And we look for whatever is creating tension. Digital communication thrives on a lot of debate. For organic results, we try to find something that can create that debate without being negative. It must hit that perfect chord though, so it doesn’t alienate vast consumer audiences.

You mentioned the point of “tension,” can you elaborate on that?

So, the topic needs to be debatable from both sides but without being alienating. Or at least you need to know who you are alienating and whether that’s a risk you’re willing to take. You want to look at the negatives and see if there’s a positive side to it that you can own as a brand.

In this case, we used sentiment analysis to identify these “points of tension” and help brands make informed decisions on whether to address these topics and how to do so effectively.

using setiment to identify tension

What’s the biggest hurdle when researching topics to validate hunches?

I think sometimes people rush through it. The clock starts ticking, and they think there’s just not enough time to research as thoroughly as is needed. But you need to take your time to look at things from different angles and perspectives. It’s the only way to fully validate your hunches and prove to stakeholders/clients/executives that this niche topic is worth investing in. Otherwise, it could be scandalous, and no one wants to be there.

As companies or analysts capture insight from multiple sources, including consumer feedback, news, and social media, it can be challenging for companies to cut through the noise and identify the right opportunities. Again, this is what brings us back to Quid. We’ve fine-tuned our approach to these analyses using it.

Watch this space for the second installment of this interview and feel free to reach out to The Mine Group or Troels Ringsted in the meantime to find clarity and inspiration in your industry, and maybe a few unexpected outliers as you’re looking around. And be sure to request a demo of our platform if you’d like to see a Quid analysis in action for yourself! 

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