Remember the good old days when every offline study was parallel tested online? Remember all the headaches of changing baselines and bizzareness out of nowhere? The nature of data is that it doesn’t stay put even when you yell at it.
Social media research is the same. If you’re used to seeing results from online surveys a certain way, you will see shifts when you start doing social media research. Some of these shifts will fall into the bizarreness out of nowhere category. There is no way to explain where they came from and you will never be able to.
On the other hand, some differences will be very real. There are many reasons why.
• Your new dataset is comprised of people who’ve probably never been an active member of an online survey panel. Up until now, they’ve never been represented in research. They hung up on phone surveys and closed all the “Take survey now” pop-ups. These folks now have a voice.
• Your new data allows people to express themselves in a way never before permitted. Any topic, any tangent, any words, any slang, any rudeness. If people feel it is important enough to communicate it, it will be captured. Think of all the surveys, even the 60 minute surveys, that just weren’t long enough to capture that minute topic.
• Your new data is measured on a different scale. People are used to forcing their opinions into a box, whether it’s the “strongly agree” box or the “yes I do” box. Now, their words fit into an unlimited number of boxes and they don’t have to feel like they just can’t box their answer.
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