What produces competitive advantage? There are many ways enterprises can differentiate themselves from among one another. Quality, price, brand loyalty, to name a few traits, require distinction and market success.
What if a company puts a key focus on knowing exactly what consumers want? A company mastering the ability to fulfill unsatisfied market needs unlocks its true potential for existence. To achieve this strategic necessity, enterprises must perform extensive research. In the past, a representative survey was the only way of collecting data for this purpose. Unfortunately, these surveys consume an extreme amount of time and human capital, which is reflected in price: five digits in Euros for something that might not even promote competitive advantage? As a result, uncertainty influences companies to go the way of consumer-aligned service or product portfolios.
Academic pioneer Robert Kozinets, a marketing scholar with a background in anthropology and consumer culture, introduced a method in the late 1990s that strategically establishes consulting and market research: Netnography.
Netnography, a portmanteau word consisting of interNET and ethNOGRAPHY, is a methodology of qualitative research aimed at understanding cultural causalities. Thus, data is conducted on digital communication platforms to trace naturally occurring public conversations. Netnography consists of a systematic set of research practices that combine investigative, immersive and interactive operations based on participant and/or nonparticipant observation of online contexts. This method allows qualitative analysis and interpretation of explicitly verbalized and implicitly demonstrated needs, desires, experiences, feedback and attitudes, as well as the observation of rituals, values and meanings consumers attach to products, services or brands.
When Netnography is conducted, data is analyzed, processed and re-directed onto the defined question(s). The desired outcome can revolutionize product or service portfolios because those outcomes align with the needs and wishes of consumers, which creates a favorable positioning of the product, service or brand in the market.
Why is the method so effective?
- People publicly share deep insights into their very personal opinions and desires on social media.
- Research from home
- Ongoing technological innovation contributes to the precision of research
- It is less intrusive than field observations
- It allows a deep understanding of consumer habits, tastes, lifestyles, and meaning making
In order to achieve valid results, researchers need to have a clear strategy and define the objectives of the project ex-ante. Netnography can lead researchers to see a clear picture of the forest through the trees!
Why is the method so challenging?
- While conducting, there might be misleading keyword placement
- Preparation and definition of platforms, communities, or profiles need particular skills
- Interpretative skills demand to be on a high level
- Large amount of data can influence the general direction and overview of the project
When done correctly, the methodology reveals most valuable results for companies. But how is a netnographic research project conducted?
1.1 Research Definition(s): “What do I want to find out?”
1.2 Selecting Keywords and Areas: only the ones that help find out about the previously defined research question.
1.3 Building key blocks and select categories to categorize data into different clusters of research (if needed)
- Selecting Platforms and relevant consumer communities or social media profiles on
Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Amazon, TikTok, Reddit, Twitch, online forums, etc.
- Data Collection Phase
3.1 Deep-Dive into Community
3.2 Investigation (scouting, selecting, scraping and extracting relevant data)
3.3. Immersion (keeping a journal with research notes and reflections of the researcher)
- Interaction (when necessary, direct participation into conversations, interviewing)
- Data Analysis and Interpretation
(6. Research Ethics: Anonymity and Confidentiality)
- Obtaining a valid understanding of the network or topic of interest to have trustworthy interpretation and results
- Recommendations in alignment with gained consumer insights
Netnographic work can also be used to understand infrastructures, networks & relationships, groups and any relevant constituent’s online behaviors. They may also inform us about many elements of consumers’ overall lifeworld.
Since the methodology is derived from actual academic research, it is necessary to comply with quality criteria of qualitative research. In the next few months, we will prepare a case study that allows you exclusive insights into our company-based netnographic work.
Do you want to find out about specific information in markets and or target groups? Get in touch with us. We will discuss strategic goals, challenges, and information needed for any type of project.
Kozinets, R. V. (2002). The field behind the screen: Using netnography for marketing research in online communities. Journal of Marketing Research, 39(1), 61-72.
Kozinets, R. V. (2010). Netnography: The marketer’s secret weapon. White paper, 1-13.
Kozinets, R. V. (2020). Netnography: The essential guide to qualitative social media research. Sage Publications: London.
Bilgram, V., Bartl, M., & Biel, S. (2011). Getting closer to the consumer–how Nivea co-creates new products. Marketing Review St. Gallen, 28(1), 34-40.