I recently wrote a blog post citing ten of the biggest complaints about social media research. Today I address complaint #2.
It’s not a representative sample.
Part 1. Are we really going to go there? I guess we ought to. In 99.9% of market research, we aren’t using a representative sample in the strict sense of the word. Survey panels aren’t probability samples. Focus groups aren’t probability samples. Market research generally uses convenience samples and social media research is no different.
But here is the difference. We’ve all heard the statistic that a tiny percentage of people answer the majority of all market research surveys. In other words, most people aren’t participating in the survey experience and we never hear their opinion. Similarly, when we conduct social media research, we only listen to people who wish to share their opinions on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any of the other millions of websites where they can write out their opinions. No matter what research method you choose, you only hear the people who wish to contribute their opinion in that mode.
Part 2. Who is talking about the brand anyways? Alright, so we know SMR doesn’t use rep samples. Big deal. One of the reasons we use rep samples in traditional research is to ensure we are talking to the right people. We do a rep sample because a product is used by a rep sample. We do a male only sample because a product is used by males only. In both cases, we choose a particular sample because it is most likely to reflect product triers and users. Guess what. The only people talking about your brand in social media are the people who care about your brand. Whether they hate your brand or love your brand, you have instantly reached the people who are relevant to your brand. They have raised their hand to tell you, “Listen to me. I have an opinion about your brand.”
If you require a rep sample, you ought to use a survey because that is the closest approximation. Always use the right method for the job.
True or False: True, but does it matter?
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