Social Media Data: is it Qualitative or Quantitative

During MRA’s webinar on Social Media, an observer questioned whether social media is a quantitative or a qualitative method. With more than 30 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook alone every month, the volume alone would lead some to consider social media and big data a quantitative tool. Yet, the learnings are not always representative of nor projectable to the larger population, and the information is unfiltered, unadulterated and, many times, unqualified.

DRA instead believes that social media is a qualitative tool that provides insights and direction from this fire-hose of information. Social media provides raw insight into the minute-by-minute lives of average customers. Having unfettered access to this raw insight can be a goldmine.
We encourage clients who are thinking about social media to consider the following:

  •  Two-thirds of all Internet users participate in some form of social media, and much of the conversation is around brands. Why not take advantage of it and use it to help guide your research?
  • Social media users communicate in a particular way; knowing the language and how to translate it to actionable insights is critical. It may require several search refinements before the analysis yields insights, not just data. Tap experts who can help you filter out the noise.
  • Social media can provide a low-impact way to test the waters before engaging in a more complex–and expensive–research project. Use it to help refine a research method, craft a discussion guide, generate watch-outs or probes for ethnographies, fine-tune consumer language used in concept development, or guide packaging design.
  • The social media landscape is highly democratic, and largely flat, giving you access to a vast array of opinions from expansive demographics. Since it likely doesn’t represent all of your users (demographically, life stage, psychographically, etc.), the insights could provide insights about benefits or barriers you might not have otherwise considered.

3 Comments. Leave new

  • Insightful blog on social media. Given the emphasis on the technology side of “Big Data” of which social media is a prime contributor the comments are well said. Social media is considered unstructured data and does truly require a guided perspective. A significant amount of money is being spent by companies to tap into this media via predictive analytics and unless you have the right intellectual capital on the other end of these reports companies will be making decisions without proper context!

  • doyle_research
    October 9, 2012 9:16 pm

    Dave: Thanks for your comments. Obviously, we couldn’t agree with you more. When we first began exploring social media data as a market research tool, it became very clear to us that if our clients were to rely on the automatically generated reports they would be missing much of the context and insight to be gleaned from the data.

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    June 10, 2015 3:26 am

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