Editor’s Note: The following interview features a GreenBook Future List honoree, Jillian Ney. The GreenBook Future List recognizes leadership, professional growth, personal integrity, passion, and excellence in the next generation of consumer insights and marketing professionals within the first 10 years of their careers.
Introducing Jillian Ney of The Social Intelligence Lab
Dr Jillian is the founder of The Social Intelligence Lab working in the insight industry blazing the trail as a leader, consultant, spokesperson and author. She specializes in the analysis of social and internet data and is building the SI Lab to bring this important sector of the industry together to network, learn, and create best practices.
Her business helps social listening professionals at brands & agencies across the globe develop the skills they need to get the most out of social and internet data. Jillian also led research into the State of Social Listening report which provided worldwide context for key statistics from the State of Social Listening, experience of social listening professionals, current and future investment into tools and technology, and challenges social media professionals currently face.
Her passion for excellence meant innovating a globally recognized accreditation for social listening professionals. The Social Intelligence Growth Certification course removes the guesswork and develops a successful social listening practice that gets results. Her work driving consumer insights forward across the industry is having a BIG impact on the careers of others and building business networks.
Outside of insights, what are your passions and interests?
This probably isn’t surprising coming from what I do as a career, but I’ve always had a healthy passion for understanding human behaviour. Learning about new cultures or why people behave the way they do from psychopaths and serial killers right the way through to why people make certain purchases, I’m into it all.
I love to travel, the more different the location to what I’m used to the better. Sights, sounds, smells, the people, customs, to experience something new and learn about other places and people. Closer to home, during the pandemic, I got a little bit obsessed with gardening. Not something I would have ever seen myself doing but it’s a whole new world to learn.
When did you know you wanted to enter a career in insights, and what inspired you?
It seemed like a natural fit, I’m curious, I like solving problems and a lateral thinker. I always had an interest in understanding human behavior and during my undergrad degree I was more interested in the research and strategy elements. I knew research was going to be my future. At first, I thought it was going to be more academic research, but that was too slow moving for me once I found my passion for social and internet data.
The first time I researched using social media, blogs, and forums I was hooked. I had to research and understand volunteer voice from mega sporting events (like the Commonwealth Games, Olympics, and World Cup) without the budget to interview volunteers, my only option was internet data. That project set the course of my entire career, from my PhD research right the way through to now. I still love the data and now I help others to find value in social and internet data as a source of insight.
The way social listening was approached when it first hit the industry wasn’t optimal for researchers, but we’ve come a long way since then. I’ve been working with my community at The Social Intelligence Lab to showcase frameworks, methodologies, and tools to get insight from social and internet data. There is a professional practice surrounding the analysis of social data, it isn’t just a technological challenge. Overcoming this misconception is what continues to drive me…
How do you advocate for others on your team or your customers?
Advocating for others is at the heart of what I do now. After a few years using social and internet data in market research I got annoyed as the industry was not progressing as much as I would have liked it to, and I started to feel a bit isolated in my work as I was the only one in the teams, I was working in analyzing social data. So, I decided to take on the challenge. I started The social Intelligence Lab as a community for professionals who analyze social and internet data. I advocate for the industry and for our members.
Part of this has been to understand what work people are doing in social listening. What I’ve discovered is that social listening is more than one analysis approach, it’s more than one thing. It’s probably not what you think it is, and if you’ve struggled with the data in your own work is probably a lack of professional practice, focusing too much on the functionality of the technology rather than your skills as a researcher. There’s different schools of thought when it comes to analyzing social data and there’s many different analysis methods and frameworks that can be used. My work, this year is to advocate for this and educate on what’s possible.
What challenges do you see facing newer MRX professionals as technology advances?
In social listening, most people would naturally see it as a technological challenge rather than a professional practice. There’s a perception that you need the tech as you need scale to collect and analyze the data, some of this is true. However, you still need a professional practice to analyze and interpret the data.
Sometimes, I feel like this leads to a dehumanization of the data or insights – it’s forgotten that we’re studying people, human behavior – that people create all this data in the first place. It’s easy to forget when the data is collected and analyzed in a dashboard. I worry that with all the technological advances and with tech spilling into other areas of research we start to see this happen more broadly in MRX, especially with newer professionals.