By @SimonCocking

Enjoyable interview with self styled contrarian of social media @Niall_McCaffrey Market Researcher. Behaviour change enthusiast at @IpsosMRBI Ipsos MRBI  Ireland’s longest established market research agency. Knowing more about Business, Consumers and Society.

Your background, how did you end up doing what do you now?

The journey to my current role has three had key pillars – my background in psychology, the brand consultancy I worked with across Europe and the US using Greek Archetypes and a grounding in qualitative research over the last 15 years. Market researchers draw a lot from the psychological community. I think that the innate curiosity with the human condition associated with psychology is central in my work with clients and their customers.

Ipsos MRBI, the 1 min pitch, and how is it going?

Ipsos MRBI is the longest established market research agency in Ireland. We are obsessed with gathering accurate, detailed and insightful information which enables our clients make better decisions in social and business environments.

We started measuring social media penetration four years ago because I was curious to know how many people were actually on the sites we were hearing so much about. We also measure many other types of media including TV and Radio so we have a great vantage point to understand how the population as a whole is consuming audio visual content.

How have the last 12 months been, what went well?

One of the best elements of my role is the variety of the research projects I work on – auto-immune diseases, telecommunications tariffs, childhood obesity, airline advertising and corporate decision making. This variety keeps me engaged and also enables me to take the learnings from one sector to another. That variety in the past 12 months has been fantastic.

Anything you’d do differently?

I’ve never been one to overly focus on the past. There are projects you’d love to have won but you can’t dwell too long on them. There are always side project that you’d love to spend more time on but there are only so many hours in the day and my five year old is very keen to practice his football skills.

Plans for rest of 2015 and the future?

I have enjoyed building a gentle contrarian view of social media consumer and will continue to explore this with people interested in balancing their understanding of role different communications channels play.

Big data is an interesting area I’ll be exploring, subject to other commitments. Five years ago, we were told we were suffering from information overload yet now this very same information is being repackaged as potentially the answer to a panacea of questions. There are significant challenges and potential limitations with big data and I think it is important to make people aware of these. Armed with a better sense of what big data is capable of, perhaps people will be more realistic about what it can achieve.

You are active on twitter, is this part of how you do business?

We don’t rely on Twitter, or social media in general, from a business development perspective. In our experience, our key customers aren’t there (Even if they are there, we don’t believe that social media represents the best platform for a conversation).

Ipsos MRBI’s Twitter feed has developed organically.  We use it to drive what we believe to be interesting information out into the public domain. We are most widely known for our political polls in association with the Irish Times but that is less then 1% of our business. Twitter is a simple and easy way to get some of that other information out there.

However you also accurately made the point that twitter is also a bit of a bubble / self referential universe, with large numbers of people not on it, nor engaging with it. How do you weigh up the relative impact of the twitterverse versus the wider non-socially media engaged working world?

We believe that online populations need to be researched carefully, and it isn’t just social media that needs to be considered. Online panels and surveys can be appropriate in some, but not all, circumstances. People present in online communities may not always be representative of the wider population. It is important to consider these issues when taking soundings from online sources.

Twitter is no different. Anyone active on Twitter needs to recognise it may not be representative of the wider world. 26% of the Irish adults aged 15+ are on Twitter. A little over a third of those with an account use it daily. This means there are millions of Irish people who have never stepped foot in the Twitter world and probably won’t in the near future. Bear that in mind when trying to assess the information that is gleaned from the platform.

Blogging, who do you follow; Neil Patel, Blog Tyrant, Ted Rubin, none of the above or others?

I’m afraid none of the above. Personally I find Twitter is a fantastic resource to tap into what is happening in behavioural economics which is a topic I have been passionate about for several years. Authors and impresarios such as Rory Sutherland, Cass R. Sunstein., Richard H. Thaler, Gerd Gigerenzer, Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahnemann are fantastic people to follow.

Being a user of social media, how do you manage life / work, and online / offline balance?

I struggle not picking up the iPhone. Part of that is relates to my work but equally part of that is my own personal interest in other topics like sport and politics. I work hard to stop naturally picking up the phone but it is difficult.

Anything else to add / we should have asked you?

Do I think Manchester United will win the league this year?

Fair enough. The Man U question, how do you think they will do this season? Top 3 but no better, or otherwise?

I’d be hopeful of top 2 but that they’ll come up a little short of the title. That result needs best possible start to the season and some further strengthening before the transfer window closes – the side is still light in terms of central defence and a proven goal scorer. Hopefully Rafa will annoy Ronaldo enough in the next month to drive him back to his spiritual home at Old Trafford!


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