Social media is the interesting guest at the market research party that the hosts don't quite know what to do with. (My past blogs on this topic include: Social Media, Even Home Home on the Range, and Will Private Online Communities Transform Qualitative Research)
Vast numbers of people are congregating online to discuss a vast variety of issues, ranging from their social lives to what is the best server to buy for their business. It is so vast, that it is troublesome getting a handle on it. Surely, any specific online community has lots of systematic biases, so it can't be treated as projectable to anything but that community, right? Of course, the same can be said of any qualitative research. Some of the approaches and techniques that are of interest to market researchers include:
- Create a private Market Research Online Community.This is a bit like setting up a private focus group on steroids. The differences with traditional qual? Its bigger, many of the exciting needs that are uncovered are from unmoderated discussions between members, and it moves the research costs from a variable cost model (each focus group costs X), to a fixed cost model with a much greater capacity for research. Oh, and its faster...projects can be completed in a week instead of six for traditional approaches.
- Mine open communities for discussions of interest. Products such as Buzz Metrics can help you get a grip on who is talking about your products or markets of interest.
- Harvest quantitative sample from social networks.Companies such as LinkedIn and Peanut Labs are harvesting sample from social networks. This is especially useful for hard to find groups (such as medical), or B2B sample, in which LinkedIn specializes. The upside? Higher quality, highly profiled sample at lower cost than traditional methods.