The idea of conducting qualitative “research” by way of simply listening in on conversations posted on various social media venues is, from a research design perspective, curious. It is curious because the business of understanding how people think (i.e., the business of marketing and social research) has never been about just hearing them talk, reading their words, and/or observing their behavior. While capturing this information may prove interesting and in some circumstances useful (e.g., counting the number of mentions of a competitive brand or variations in reactions to a new product introduction), it is not good enough when the intent is to learn about underlying perceptions and motivations.
One of the healthy outcomes from the rise of social media and mobile research is that it has brought to the forefront the issue of the balance of power – or control – in research design. Method specialists who are proponents of social media or mobile research often assert that a big advantage of these approaches is that the participant, not the researcher, controls what is shared or not shared. Qualitative researchers, for example, have discovered the value of Pinterest where, without any researcher involvement, they surmise the hobbies and characteristics of individuals that represent some segment of the population. And a mobile qualitative research study empowers the participant to select when, where, and how (in what format) information is provided to the researcher. The researcher may start with a few basic questions but it is the research participant (knowingly or not) who controls the input.
This participant-leaning balance of power is in contrast to other qualitative research – face-to-face focus groups and in-depth interviews – as well as quantitative survey research where the researcher drives the course for the research with carefully-considered Read Full Text
Last month’s post – “Insights vs. Metrics: Finding Meaning in Online Qualitative Research” – talked about “social media metric mania” and the value of off- and online qualitative research tools “that dig behind the obvious and attempt to reveal how people truly think.” In light of these remarks, it is good to find researchers who are exploring social media research design and attempting to determine the necessary parameters to maximize quality output. The researchers at J.D. Power and Associates are doing just that. In particular, Gina Pingitore, Chief Research Officer, and others at J.D. Power have written a couple of white papers discussing design issues such as validity, reliability, and best practices in social media research. The research-on-research work they have conducted on these issues is applauded for its focus on establishing quality standards and for its overarching goal “to create more rigor around the processes that create social insights.”
The February 2012 paper – “The Validity of Social Media Data within the Wireless Industry” – looks at the volume and sentiment of social media content in relationship to results from their “traditional” syndicated survey. They learned that: there is a direct relationship between the volume of posts in social media and Read Full Text