Should Researchers Be Living the Hashtag Life?

If you read the BLOG last week, you learned that SoapBox’s very first employee, our current Director of Systems and Programming, also is a professional (as in actually was certified in France) Champagne Sabreur. Turns out, he also follows social media trends and proposed we hop on the #mannequinchallenge. I dutifully agreed, not even knowing what he was asking me.

 Apparently he had a grand plan to stage a SoapBox #mannequinchallenge with the in-office staff. Mind you he brought this up a few weeks ago when it was SUPER cool. It is still cool, but starting to get a little stale already. He suggested I also write a BLOG post about how Market Researchers tend to overlook these trends as we are not fast or nimble enough to catch on. I dutifully responded, go for it. Congrats! You just earned yourself the next guest writer spot on Telltale Ten.  So here is Aaron (aka systems extraordinaire Champagne Sabreuring Social Media expert – he also runs marathons. In case you care about that kind of stuff.)

With the prominence of social media in our daily lives and the ability to share connections with individuals we have absolutely no connection to, it’s no wonder that viral trends gain such high levels of popularity. From the Harlem Shake to the Ice Bucket challenge, these viral sensations have the power to captivate our attention, whether we’re truly entertained by their content or we simply want to know what the heck everyone else is talking about.  These trends have the ability to spread like wildfire through their use of quick entertainment, hashtags, and celebrity endorsements. The latest entry to the #viralclub is the #MannequinChallenge.

Now for those of you who’ve been living under a proverbial rock for the past couple of weeks, the mannequin challenge involves a group of individuals posing in various positions as if they’re frozen in time while the cameraman traverses the scene capturing all of the action. The trend started with a group of high schoolers, who posted the inaugural video on October 26, 2016 with music from the hip hop duo Rae Sremmurd. Word of the original video got back to the artists, Rae Sremmurd, who then performed their own mannequin challenge in concert with help from their audience. Since then the challenge has caught the internet by storm; from a Destiny’s Child reunion to Kevin Hart to Disney World to numerous professional sports teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and many others. Seemingly knowing no bounds, the mannequin challenge even spread into the political arena with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton posting her own rendition prior to the election encouraging viewers not to ‘stand still [and] vote’.

Not only is it super impressive how these trends can come out of nowhere and become so big that even celebrities and major news outlets take notice, but it’s also impressive, maybe even more so, how they can be tweaked and crafted to showcase our individual voices and broadcast our own messages. In the case of Hillary Clinton (and this is not an endorsement for, or a statement against, so just calm down), she took a viral trend that was envisioned as nothing more than clever entertainment and applied to it a relevant and meaningful message: “Don’t stand still. Vote today.”

With that in mind, it raises the question if we as researchers are missing out on a golden goose? Should the Market Research industry pay more attention to these viral trends and capitalize on their reach?

It’s no secret that some of the biggest struggles faced by online research today are 1) finding your target audience, 2) getting them to respond, and 3) reaching younger age groups (especially males) and minorities. Well this may come as a shocker, but guess who some of the biggest proponents are for these viral trends? Millennials. Many of them males, and many of them minorities. Jackpot! There’s your audience.

The challenge then becomes engaging them in a meaningful way.

We here at SoapBoxSample decided to experiment with this and posted our own Mannequin Challenge with the help of a few employees and some clever ideas (levitating balls anyone?). Needless to say, we were quite impressed with the movement we saw. We had hundreds of views within a couple of hours of posting. It’s quite apparent why we saw the sudden surge in activity, and the answer is “viral trends”.

Imagine if we had taken this a step further and tied in a survey opportunity or panel recruitment? It would have resulted in free marketing, clever marketing, that could have easily facilitated our online data collection both for gen-pop and niche demographics.

Sadly, I don’t have the magic formula for how to best capitalize viral social media trends in online research (and if I did I might be inclined to keep it secret), but I am confident that there is a formula to be had. That formula just needs to be solved. And once it finally is, who knows, the possibilities could be endless.

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