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Biometrics, Social Media Among the Latest Research Trends

L to R: Ted McConnell, ARF; Lee Brown, Groupon; and Naveen Selvadurai, foursquare. Photo: Nancy Lazarus

Social media’s growing role in research was a visible theme throughout the ARF/Advertising Research Foundation’s Re:think conference in New York this week, from the topics of the keynote speakers and breakout sessions to the trade show exhibitors specialized in social media monitoring.

Another area generating buzz was biometrics, research that measures emotional responses driving behavior. Much discussion also focused on the size and use of social network databases. After the jump are the key takeaways.

Behavior is shaped mostly by social choice, though most research still focuses on individuals. Many decisions, ranging from baby names to dog breeds and fashion, are socially influenced, according to Mark Earls of HERD Consulting. He noted that the infamous line “I’ll have what she’s having” from the diner scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally closely resembles how we make selections. In response, John Kearon, founder of BrainJuicer, observed the need to move from “’me’ to ‘we’ research” where surveys ask more questions about social patterns of influence.

All media are social, not just the social networks. Traditional media, including print and television audiences, also offer social value. Brad Fay, COO of Keller Fay Group, reported that in their TalkTrack continuous monitoring survey they quantify the number of people the respondents are regularly in contact with and their frequency of recommending brands. According to these criteria, they found the following media to have the largest social networks: Wall Street Journal (print and online), The Washington Post, Vogue, Newsweek, and The New York Times.

Mannequin wearing a biometric belt. Photo: Nancy Lazarus

Biometrics can also be used in a social context. This research method involves participants wearing a belt across their torso that tracks skin sweat, heart rate, breathing, and motion. If this sounds rather intimidating, at least the topics being researched can be more user-friendly. CNN partnered with Innerscope Research to test the levels of engagement when people share news stories. They conducted biometric research among influencers who send their friends news or sports stories and recommendees who receive them. They found both groups were far more engaged with shared news content.

Retail / location based services will offer targeted data and time-sensitive deals. The rapid growth of Groupon can be attributed to “curating our inventory of deals and providing shoppers with serendipitous finds in their neighborhood,” according to Lee Brown, SVP of national sales. Their next focus will be curating deals based on customers’ past purchases and segmenting their data to offer deals at the right time, or what Brown described as “self-select targeting.” Groupon Now, their new product to be introduced in April, will enable shoppers to find time-sensitive deals from their mobile phones.

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