Tom Webster in his September 8th post stated the obvious when he asserted that social media monitoring is not the same thing as social media research. Let me add that the reason monitoring or “listening in” on the conversations that whirl within the Web is not research – at least not primary research – is because it lacks meaning. The absence of meaning in social media monitoring stems from its failure to meet design standards or address many of the design issues discussed in Research Design Review: transparency, controls, maximizing individual response, error and validity in qualitative research, the relationship between contexts and truths, qualitative analysis, gender differences, and selection bias. These and other principles in design exist to achieve the overarching objective of most (if not all) research with human subjects which is to find meaning in how people think, by actually wading into their streams of consciousness while making the interconnections within individuals as well as across the research sample.
That is why there is no ‘there there’ in social media listening. There is no meaning in customers’ comments on Facebook (or Twitter or review sites) beyond the idea that customers are really angry about one thing, happy about another thing, or just obsessive about something else. That is why it is delusional to liken social media monitoring to an online version of focus group research (which some have done) and not useful to escalate monitoring within the organization simply because it gets the attention of top management (not unlike the NPS score discussed last month in this blog).
What would be useful would be the implementation of real social media research that utilizes quality design guidelines. That is, a research design built around known and defined parameters that achieve a transparent view of the variables and result in honest insights. Real social media research pursues meaning by crafting Read Full Text