How to Use Social Media for Research
Social media connects billions of people from around the globe. According to the latest report, there are 3.8 billion social media users. That's half of the world's population. This colossal number also shapes the different methods researchers can use to gather information without spending too much time and resources. In other words, the internet and social media "bring" your research subjects into the devices that you are using to collect data. It provides the opportunity to do quantitative (numeric data) and qualitative (people's opinions, decisions, action) research. Researchers doing market, socio-economic, cultural, and other research types can take advantage of social media to reach a broader audience. In some instances, it is worth mentioning that participants hesitate to give any feedback when it comes to in-person research, while they are more open to answering questions on online platforms because they don't feel under pressure. Different social media tools can be used to get the required data. Let's look at some of them:
Blogs – Now, a large number of researchers create blogs to showcase their research projects and get feedback on them. Blog posts in the form of video/podcasts or simple articles can get you enough audience interested in your work. Another advantage of blog posts in a particular research project is that there is a chance that it will catch the attention of the other researchers doing similar research. At the same time, you can also search for similar blogs, engage with fellow researchers, and even cooperate with them.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn – These are handy, especially in market research, as you can determine how the customers feel about specific products and trends. Collecting data on customer choices lets you implement new product strategies to increase quality and brand awareness. Facebook Analytics, Instagram Business Tools, Social Media Stories give you insights about different aspects of your product, and they even break down the information according to location and demographics. Another source of feedback on these social media sites is the comments section, which is usually filled with reviews by the consumers of your product or service.
ResearchGate – This specialized social media platform for researchers attracts around 20 million different researchers around the world and gives access to over 130 million publications. The New York Times described ResearchGate as a mashup of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. No matter what your research field is, you will find thousands of people ready to support your project. It is possibly the best place for you to find collaborators.
Internet forums – There are thousands of internet forums (message boards) dedicated to different subjects starting from media to a scientific field like, for instance, chemistry. A wide variety of forums lets you conduct surveys in almost any area with participants from various countries.
Social media for interviews – There is no doubt that interviews are among the primary information providers, especially for researchers looking for qualitative data. Before the internet age, researchers had difficulty conducting interviews, spending valuable resources and travelling long distances. The existence of Skype, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, and other similar applications made it much easier to have interviews without depending on the participants' location. Another useful feature of these programs is that they make it possible to interview multiple people simultaneously.
There is no denying that social media has changed how we perceive different aspects of life. It has helped many businesses grow and become stronger, and billions of people to connect with one another. This kind of global communication affected almost all types of research methods, and it will continue to shape them further.