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Mass media vs niche groups

Sedale’s Super Bowl example also relates to our discussion on the future of social analysis in his work. He believes that as marketers and researchers we need to go way beyond the old ways of mass messaging.

“I think that we’re going to get to a point where mass media will start to fall away more and more. We as marketers need to be prepared for hand-to-hand combat. We can’t post to a vast mass media and hope it hits the people we want. We have to find ways to specifically hit the individuals,” he says.

The combat rhetoric is telling – traditional media and social media are doing battle, and efficient, precision targeting certainly looks like a better tactic.

“Think about Instagram hashtags and LinkedIn groups. People are self selecting the things they see and we have to find ways to get involved in those conversations and moments. We as researchers need to be prepared for that and we as marketers need to be prepared for finding people where they are.”

That’s not to say that traditional forms of ‘offline’ research – analyzing media, focus groups, and surveys are not important. In fact, blending research from all kinds of sources gets marketers closer to the humans they’re looking to engage with, Sedale says.

Blending data sources

“One thing a mentor told me a long time ago is that no data point tells the whole story. You have to combine a variety of them,” Sedale says. “We might create a graph that takes two to three different metrics and plots them based on where they are. Reach might be one axis, engagement might be one axis, and the size of the dot we plot is the size of the following. Those three things combine and you have more of a story – this person has a lot of reach and a lot of engagement so they might be someone we want to tap into.”

Part of Sedale’s charge is to go beyond social. “How can we start to draw in from the research side, from traditional media, from social and give the best possible picture?”

The biggest limitation Sedale sees around social data is that researchers can only go as far as what a person publicly expresses. “We’re only looking at the person that that person wants us to see,” he says. “That’s why I think it’s so important to find other sources. The more sources you get the closer you get to that full person.”


I love the experimental nature of a lot of Sedale’s team’s work. From their midterm experiment that blends all kinds of information to create an insightful visualization to their attitude to mixing traditional research methods with social listening, they’re constantly looking for innovative ways to get better insights for their clients.

Big thanks to Sedale for taking the time to chat with us. You can find him on LinkedIn here.

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