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How to research social media

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Social media research is simply the process of data collection through the use of social media platforms as sources. Social media has a huge traffic of people from different demographic sets. These demographic sets assist in nuanced data collection as it extracts authentic data from a purpose- built platforms. This data includes both qualitative and quantitative information delivering both , insights and hard numbers to back up informed decision making.

The people involved in conducting and analysis of social media research have a pre-equipped knowledge about social media sentiments, behaviour and other usage metrics.

This form of gathering intel differs from any other mode of research which include surveys, focus groups and interviewing where the social aspect of the research procedure might be absent. This contrasts the information gathered through social media research which provides more elaborate and veritable data.

Step by Step guide to Descriptive Research

Get ready to uncover the how, when, what, and where questions in a research problem

How can social media research help your business?

Social media research is a great method of gauging and grasping your customer mindset and planning organizational actions accordingly. This is the reason why social media research finds multi-faceted usage in any business:

  • Marketing: Marketing personnel make use of social media research to monitor target audience, understand customer mindset , update market knowledge based on changing circumstances and positioning offerings by assessing market trends and preferences. Figuring out the engagement and interaction generating areas and channelling resources in the right direction drives effective functioning. These discoveries are carried out on a real time basis preventing the data collected to becomes obsolete and thus, unactionable.
  •  Concept development and testing: Business offerings are successful as long as they are fed by a need and acceptance of the target audience. It is the understanding of such needs and preferences that allows these businesses to identify opportunities to explore and follow upon. The comprehensive nature of social media research fuels maximum coverage and accurate predictions. Based on such analysis the development of concepts gets done and a post development behavioural study gets carried out to make sure the business initiatives conform to market needs and so that any shortcomings can be worked upon and positioning as well as communication strategies can be panned out accordingly.
  • Capitalise on first mover advantage and monitor warning signals: As business market continuously evolves, the need to keep an eye on the business environment enhances. Social media listening delivers substantial insights in terms of unexplored opportunities and gaps in the market. Gathering data about customer experiences, needs , opinions, ideas and perceptions can not only help build current customer profiles but discover new uncatered markets. In addition, such research also yields possible threats and challenges surrounding the industry and provides these organizations with the time to develop strategies to defend themselves by eliminating uncertainty.
  • High-end customer experience : Social media platforms provide a free hand for customers to speak about what they feel about the way a business treats its customers. Hawthorne effect gets completely eliminated as people narrow down on pain points. This allows business to gather quick insights which are completely transparent and reflect an individual’s genuine views about the business.
  •  Competitive analysis: The metrics that the business chooses to study can be put into a more cohesive structure by scaling them against the business’ current and upcoming competitors. Practices adopted by the brand differ from those that are taken up by the competitors. The efficacy of such practices gets addressed through rival performances. This also sheds light upon the strengths and weaknesses of the competitive businesses and how their methods and techniques can be used to benchmark segment based performances.
  •  Assessment of brand image: Businesses need to track how the initial perception of the brand has changed : progressed or fell , and what has brought about this change. This assessment of change helps the businesses in adapting to current market circumstances by learning what the target audience and the people, in general think about the businesses. .

Why do we need social media research?

In today’s world , social media has become a part of our everyday lives. People feel comfortable expressing and projecting their ideas , attitude, perceptions and feelings about various issues. Such platforms provide room for easy engagement and interaction to take place. Further , the number and variety of social media participants generate large scale insights through a comprehensive analysis and inputs from people who look at a phenomenon from different angles.

 Added to this , social media also consists of personalities and thought leaders that enjoy a sway over the masses. Understanding the role played by these individuals in controlling individual or brand perception is key.

 Social media research provides a medium to collect data that is untainted and unrestricted. Such data provides information in the most authentic format which is what makes it a highly useful mechanism.

How to carry out social media research?

Ask useful questions

 It is important to remember that your time is limited. Within this limited time frame, the right questions needs to be asked that make the entire research relevant and actionable.

Lay out and put aside the information you already know. This is the part where you need not focus. Try to find out unexplored areas that need to be understood and that can supplement the information that is already present. Further, make sure that you ask exactly what you want to know without causing any ambiguity or confusion of any kind. The questions must be designed in a manner that any respondent is able to understand with clarity and responses get collected in an unbiased and authentic manner. Assess each question in terms of its usability to generate a value addition to the entire data collection process. If you feel that it might not be that useful , then its better to do away with it. Respondent attention span is limited, which is why it is intelligent to keep it concise.

Broad based filtered datasets

 Identify broad themes that create a backdrop to the issue that you seek to understand. Broad based studies not only scope in on the topics that you seek to study but even provides a comprehensive overview of the entire situation without leading or pointing in a certain direction. This also brings in more number of individuals capable of answering your research questions. You don’t want your research to mention and circle around the same issue that might even result in fatigue.

 There is also a general observation that remains standard across various studies that are carried around the same topic. These general observations are an obstacle to deeper understanding of underlying insights. Indulging in base level studies that tell you what you already know is no good to anyone. Instead, the variations that exist, the different perspectives from which the similar issues get examined and the discoveries that are made over time are some aspects which are key to improved and updated understanding. Such aspects can only be examine when the researchers filter their data to look beyond what they already know.

Multiple techniques useful for this practice include eliminating retweets, using tags, Natural language processing, News analytics, Opinion mining, Scraping, sentiment analytics and text analytics.

Exploratory Research Guide

Conducting exploratory research seems tricky but an effective guide can help.

Select your sample

 The sample consists of a limited number of highly representative individuals that make the data gathered manageable as well as actionable. Select your sample using randomising techniques that eliminates any bias and provides an equal chance for everyone to be selected in the sample. Make sure that you keep your sample is large enough to be substantial and small enough to allow the research to be completed within a specified time frame.

Collect and organize your data

The data that you collect will be highly subjective and varying. There is no standardized response that can be generalized for the entire sample. Try to predict the possible responses that you may receive from your respondents. Figure out a way to categorise your data type using a set of variables that group answer themes. Don’t be too stringent with these categories. New opinions and views will emerge when using a high quality sample and so the researcher needs to keep an open mind to incorporate multiple point of views.

Analyse the consolidate data

 Now, you have your data organised at one place. It’s very important that you figure out a way to put this consolidated data into perspective using the right analysis tools. The decision to use particular tools for evaluating your data is based on the end result that you seek to achieve.

The analysis of data should be done such that every stakeholder or user is able to make sense of it. Descriptive and chart based outputs can be generated which can be further used to identify the relationships that exist among various categories. For example: A simple book review study can show different understandings of the plot. Particularly, books that are a hard read may contain abstract ideas that may not be well grasped by teenagers as much as they would be by middle-aged individuals. In such a case analysing respondent perspective with respect to their age is a plausible method that can extract key insights.

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Social Media Research tools

Twitter: Twitter brings together multiple brands and individuals on a single platform. It provides an easy access to timeline based data which can be sorted by likes, retweets, replies and so on. This helps in filtering data as well as catching a hold on what messaging does the audience resonate with. It analyses the brand’s impact on a large scale audience. The tweet-o-meter measures the amount of tweets correlated to place and in this manner can be used as a crowdsourcing research tool.

 Facebook: Facebook uncovers a plethora of insightful information for its users. Obtaining and downloading statistics regarding reach and impact of your pages can be done with ease. People that respond to and like the content and messaging of your posts, videos and photos can also be seen supplemented by their demographic details. The interactions that people have with public pages can also be seen but with a few limitations due to Facebook’s privacy policy.

Instagram: Instagram offers a great analytics platform for nuanced social media research. It covers performance, engagement, reach, followers, ads among other things. You get to see a variety of insights on your posts as well as your stories: the people who viewed your content, engagement variations by timeline as well carry out a research based on hashtags.

Youtube:  Youtube based analytics is based on monitoring video viewership. This can be gauged from the likes, subscription volumes and comments. Apart from this finding the sources from where the audience gets to know about a video is also relevant to targeting specific channels for attracting relevant online traffic. Moreover, seeing other content from same genres or different genres helps in seeing what type of content is the audience currently resonating with. Such practices help in staying up to date with current trends and accordingly adapt to changing preferences.

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FAQs

People also ask:

Conducting social media research entails some basic processes: designing and asking useful questions, choose a broad based filtered datasets, selecting a representative sample, collect and organize your data and finally, carry out an accurate data analysis.

Social media research is conducted by focusing on the discovery of new insights. The researcher’s approach is based on establishing previously received answer themes as a predicted outcome of the research and adding and modifying the answer themes as and when new data gets discovered.

Social media research is a mechanism to analyse social media data and thereafter, uses a mixture of both quantitative and qualitative techniques and tools to derive important insights that drive decision making.   

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube are among the main sources of social media research.

Some of the examples of social media sources with a high volume of traffic (over 100 million registered users) include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Weibo, Youtube among many others.

The basic elements of social media research are: setting end objectives and step wise goals, establishing audience type and platforms to be used for research, drafting a concise questioning procedure, picking a representative sample of population to study, accurate collection and appropriate organization of the data, selection of the right tools, techniques and practices to evaluate and present the data and finally, reporting of results.

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