Social networking platforms for market research

Social media in its entirety has redefined the quintessential symbiont; we as a generation have incorporated social media into our lives with unanticipated eagerness. The social media penetration, some might argue intrusion, has become so to such an extent that the practice of crafting digital personas has become a very common one. A report in 2011 by ACNielsen suggested that 80% of the people who use Internet use social media in some form or the other. This development is not all bad; the emergence of social media opens new avenues for conducting research as well.

A characteristic feature of social networking websites is the availability of real-time information. Everything on social media is real time, from opinions to trends, from disputes to virals; social networking websites make everything available on a real-time basis. This can be leveraged by companies for their market research. Market research is a time-consuming process; it is due to this characteristic that it runs the risk of partial obsolescence. By the time the market research is completed, the findings might not really hold water. Social networking websites provide data in much shorter cycles, thus allowing quicker research completion. Moreover, there are so many trends which but for social networking websites would have gone unnoticed.

A major problem that is faced by researchers in designing research instruments is the language gap; market researchers design research instruments in one language and the respondents think in a different language. This difference in lingo causes a problem in generating authentic and accurate responses. Social networking websites give market researchers a direct insight into the prevalent colloquial parlance of the sample, thus increasing the potential effectiveness of the research instrument in gathering responses, not to mention the cost of this entire process is marginal compared to conventional methods.

The genesis of market research is, more often than not, in product ideas. A more generalised statement would be that after a product idea is conceptualised, market research is conducted. Social networking websites often provide, directly or indirectly, multiple product ideas. On a related note, a lot of market research also goes into competitor analysis, something which can be done very easily on social networking websites.

Finally, in market research, especially when conducting field experiments, the manipulation of independent variables for observing results becomes very difficult. However, on social networking websites and other social media, the manipulation of independent variable becomes much easier, as the cycle of administration and observation of the variables is much shorter.

Suffice to say that social networking websites have the potential to be excellent tools in market research. However, there is a caveat in this application. Social networking websites provide a lot of unnecessary data as well; most of the data which is available on such platforms is highly qualitative and precariously ambiguous in nature. Therefore, prior to using this tool available at our disposal, it would be wise to have a proper framework depending upon the need for research to determine both the validity of the data and its relevance.

Section B_Group 5_Sai Vijay_13FPM006

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