Jul 17

Using social media as a qualitative research tool.

Photo Credit: joelaz (flickr.com)

Social media is not just a way for people to update others on what they are eating for dinner or other mundane details. It is also more than simply a marketing tool for companies and organizations. Social media can be incredibly useful when trying to garner qualitative research insights.

In an issue of “Quirks”, a marketing research review periodical, an article explained how researchers can appropriately use consumer generated posts on social media networks to glean insights into a product or service industry. Monitoring what is said on social media can help you gain some context before talking to consumers via interviews or focus groups.

Firstly, exploring what is said on social media helps determine what topics need further engagement. What aspects of a product or service are people confused about? Are people aware of your new service line or is there no mention of it anywhere? You can look for hot topics that may come up in a focus group. If you know what’s talked about the most among consumers regarding a product or service, you can be better prepared when engaging participants in a focus group or interview.

Social media can also be implemented as the first stage in a research study. Mining posts and comments on social media sites can help pinpoint areas that consumers care about the most. If you’re starting off with a broad topic, such as “What do people think about electronics”, you can craft a less vague objective if you look over what is being said by consumers everywhere.

You are also able to observe consumers in their natural setting. You can listen to people who are familiar with the product chat candidly about what they like about the product, what complaints they have, what their expectations are, or how they use the product. In addition, you can quickly pick up on the terminology and nuances surrounding a brand, product or industry.

Lastly, using social media as a research tool can also serve as an avenue to recruit respondents for qualitative research. Brand advocates can generally be found connecting with brands on social media channels.

How have you found social media to be useful during your research process? Let us know!