Apparently I don’t know what social media research is

August 26, 2010 | 1 Comments

I’ve had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks with people who are interested in social media research. We had some long talks before I started to realize — we were not talking about the same thing! Perhaps this is why there is so much confusion out there. Here are some of things people meant when they talked social media research.

  1. Social media research is the process of researching social media. For instance, someone who spends hours on google finding blogs and articles about Twitter or Facebook is researching social media. This one is the easiest one to tease out but from here on, it gets more difficult.
  2. .

  3. Social media research is the process of recruiting research participants via social media. In this case, someone who goes into Facebook, perhaps they even create a Facebook page, to ask people whether they would like to answer a survey or participate in a focus group is conducting research via social media.
  4. .

  5. Social media research is an online focus group. Perhaps you have created a specialized social network that is only about a specific topic for the purposes of listening or asking questions of the group members. At the end of the project, the group may close or may move onto a brand new topic with a brand new set of group members.
  6. .

  7. Social media research is online participant observational research. This could include joining an existing social network to quietly observe how group members interact with each other and possibly participate as a member. By listening and asking questions, the researcher hopes to solve a problem or learn what people think about a specific topic.
  8. .

  9. Social media research is large scale, quantitative, analyses of naturally occurring conversations on the internet. This would involve collecting massive quantities of data from across the entire internet to listen, score, code, analyze, generalize and predict human behavior. Of course, this is the one that I always think of, but it is definitely not what everyone thinks of.

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Next time you find yourself talking about social media research, stop for a second and ask. Are you talking about the same thing?

Have you come across another definition of social media research? I’d love to hear it!
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Related links
Social media monitoring vs social media research: Can you see the difference?
The Conversition Hierarchy of Social Media Insight
The official end of the neverending qual vs quant debate


1 Comment so far
  1. by Robert B

    On September 3, 2010 at 10:34 am

    At least it’s slightly more precise than web 2.0 market research, which seemed to be used to refer to any type of research conducted on, about or near a computer.

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