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  • Writer's pictureDylan Grey

ThisThat's Influencer-Led Research

ThisThat have developed a new form of market research they are calling Influencer-led research. Influencer-led research is all about asking the right questions to the right audiences and helping brands and people become more connected. Asking the right questions to the right audiences may sound simple but believe it or not, market research agencies have been getting this wrong time and time again. Here’s why…

Let’s start with the right questions. Normally when you want to research a topic or group of consumers you’ll either create your own survey or go to a market research agency. Market research done in house usually leads to countless opinions being offered by multiple stakeholders all wanting to have their input on the survey design. This makes for a slow and convoluted process with no clear research objective in mind. Market research agencies on the other hand will more often than not give you an expert on a certain subject matter and you’ll assume your in safe hands. However these experts have an ingrained understanding of historic trends but are by no means the trendsetters. Expect a survey that states the obvious, usually at great expense. Using historic trends as a benchmark will no doubt lead to a survey that fails to uncover the insight you are looking for in the immediate and as a means to tap into the trends of tomorrow.

When looking to survey the right audiences we enter another realm of difficulty. Market research agencies and indeed platforms like Survey Monkey rely entirely on panels. A market research panel is a pre-recruited group of individuals who have essentially agreed to take part in studies such as online surveys, in-depth interviews (IDIs), focus groups, mobile ethnographies, or even in-home usage tests (IHUTs). Panels are typically made up of around 100m respondents but sources within tell us that the active user-base of most is around 20% of what’s advertised. They are made up largely of people wanting to earn a small income for answering surveys on a regular basis and this tends to be stay at home parents, students and people on low incomes. Upon sign up to a panel you’ll be asked to provide basic demographic information including your age, location, gender and income. From there, the platform will notify you when you qualify as a target audience and you can earn anywhere between £0.05p to £20 for answering a survey. This usually depends on the length of the survey and time taken to complete it. However, while 20 million panelists may sound like a large number, this figure by no means represents society as a whole.

In our experience we have found panels to be extremely limiting. For example we were looking to source a group of respondents from the queer community in New York but sadly this wasn’t possible even on the largest panel globally. What a shame that we couldn’t connect with such an important group! You’ll find yourself limited, using groups to build numbers for a survey respondent pool but ultimately you’ll be sacrificing the quality of the data. On top of this, while basic demographics are important, they hardly sum up an individual. Look at Prince Charles and Ozzy Osbourne for instance. Both were born in 1948, both grew up in England, both were married twice, both are extremely wealthy and both even like dogs. However, the two couldn’t be more different!

Growing evermore frustrated with existing solutions we decided to launch Influencer-Led Research in early 2022 following huge success of our influencer focused brand lift offering. So how do we ask the right questions to the right audiences and make brands and people more connected?

It all starts with highlighting influencers for what they really are. Influencers are not just reality TV stars, models and silly online buffoons. The large majority are smart, business orientated, loved and respected by their audiences. To be an influencer is to be someone of influence and growing a community that engage with content on a regular is no easy feat. That’s why at ThisThat we say that influencers are the thought leaders, the trendsetters, the community representatives and people with genuine influence. When honing in on a topic for a research study it is important to distinguish influencers from market research analysts. It’s an understanding of historic trends with market research analysts v.s people with their finger on the pulse of a community with influencers. Almost as though they have been democratically elected to be the voice of a movement, a belief system or the face of a brand in their own right.

So how do we do it?

Influencer-led research is a two phase process and we use design thinking as a framework for this kind of research. For those of you unfamiliar with design thinking - it stems from a phase of divergence followed by a phase of convergence. In step one (divergence) we look to expand on hypotheses originally identified by a brand or agency and hone in on new ones through a series of focus groups held with the pool of influencers. The job of the influencer is to highlight new ideas and clarify which sub-topics are worth exploring. The end result is a more refined research brief and therefore a more concise and guided survey design. In effect we ensure we are asking the right questions. At ThisThat we typically work with between 4 and 20 influencers per research study and host focus groups with between 4-8 individuals at a time. Once the survey is designed off the back of the qualitative research we move to phase 2.

Phase 2 looks to converge. Here we are looking to validate or invalidate the hypotheses generated in the focus groups. Critically we need to ensure we are asking the questions to the target audience and we need to ensure this is the right audience. Who better to ask therefore than the actual audiences of the influencers? These are people that have shown an interest in the subject, a group of people that share the same interests, beliefs and mannerisms. Forget basic demographics like age and location (although these can still be included in the survey). Instead target people based on super-defined niches. It could be F1 fans that follow former drivers or race correspondents, people looking to become more financially independent who follow influencers that share financial education content, aspiring entrepreneurs that follow Stephen Bartlett or first time parents that follow pages related to motherhood or fatherhood. No matter how niche the subject is you are bound to find influencers and communities to survey. Put simply, panels have access to 20m people - going through social opens your pool to 4.5bn active social media users.

Influencer share content with a link to the survey incorporating a call to action like “swipe up to have your voice heard” and from there are taken to the ThisThat survey interface. Data is collected quickly ensuring the insight we provide is relevant. Like with our brand lift offering we can also use paid media to target groups making the process even faster and just to be extra safe we also have partnered with the world’s largest panel just in case you want to blend how you source respondents.

So what are you left with? Working with us you’ll show that your innovative, you care about asking the right questions to the right audiences and most importantly you’ll demonstrate to your fans and customers that you are listening to them. The strategic insight presented in the form of a qualitative focus group deck and subsequent quantitative deck will help shape your brand and help you stay ahead of the curve. Off the back of this you’ll also have the foundation to create a host of marketing content too. All in all, your brand will be more interconnected with your target audience and consumer base.

ThisThat’s mission is to create a world where brands are accountable to people and people shape brands. If you want to find out more, head to our website at

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