Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
Survey and focus group researchers have great respect for their research participants. Those participants have been carefully chosen and kindly agreed to share their opinions on specific topics, and with reference to specific questions, in order to create better products and services.
As part of the social media research process, however, people go online to share thoughts and opinions which are completely unsolicited and unguided. People may write paragraphs and essays, or simply short comments and status updates in places like Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, YouTube, and more. Collectively, these millions and billions of opinions contribute to the wealth of knowledge from which researchers learn.
Terms like “research participant” and “research responder” seem to imply that that the person is aware that they are contributing to the research process. But social media doesn’t work like that. Even though people share opinions, and some people may be aware that their opinions may be used in research, these people aren’t really research participants or respondents in the traditional sense.
The social media research industry needs a similarly respectful and appropriate phrase to refer to people who so kindly share their opinions online. This poll lists a number of potential options, some of which I like more than others. I would love to hear what the research community feels is most appropriate. Please feel free to add in any options that you feel are missing.
Social media monitoring vs social media research: Can you see the difference?
The Conversition Hierarchy of Social Media Insight
How important is sampling? Well, how important is gay marriage?
The Fantasy of Representative Samples