Social media are an established fact of people’s everyday life, and their presence is likely to grow in the foreseeable future. Given that, it is hardly surprising that their role in both driving and displaying the people’s choices in consumption is increasing as well. As a result, social media has become more and more important in terms of market research. As long as the researcher pays careful attention to research design, from the research question to data gathering methods, qualitative market research based on social media may answer a virtually unlimited number of relevant inquiries.
Social Media’s Role in Market Research
The market research process is roughly the same in most cases, although many of its aspects depend on the specific task at hand. First and foremost, it is necessary to identify the research question to be answered and the research design that would correspond to it. In practical terms, it usually means choosing between exploratory research designed to define the issue better, descriptive research to establish its main characteristics, and causal research to identify causes and effects (Mooi et al., 2018). After selecting the issue and the proper approach to it, it is necessary to identify the sample and data collection method. For example, if one aims to understand the motivations of activists protesting against certain business activities and, thus, impacting the market, one can choose a certain number of activists concerned with a common cause. Gretzel’s (2017) research of social media activism in the tourism industry provides an example of how it can be done. Finally, one should also give sufficient consideration to the methods of data gathering and establish beforehand how the data obtained through this particular research is to be analyzed.
Social media offer ample opportunity for qualitative market research because they are essentially an enormous outlet of market-related data freely offered by the producers, marketers, and, most of all, consumers. Since social media users usually present their opinions and reactions in a nuanced and personalized rather than quantified form, social media represent particularly appealing grounds for qualitative research (Mooi et al., 2018). One good way to use social media is to access the ways in which different companies approach their marketing and the aspects of their products and services they choose to stress. Kaur and Kumar (2020) offer an example of such research by analyzing how different companies in India’s beauty industry approach their positioning in social media. Another possible research avenue is analyzing the motivations of online actors aiming to impact certain business activities. Gretzel (2017) does that for social media activists in the tourism industry, showcasing how different their individual motives are. Naturally, these are just some examples of how a market researcher can use social media for qualitative research because an exhaustive list of those would go far beyond the limits of this paper.
As one can see, social media may play a crucial role in market research as long as the research design corresponds well to the nature of the subject. In order to conduct good qualitative market research based on the use of social media, a researcher needs to ask the correct research question and carefully choose the sample and methods of data collection. If these conditions are fulfilled, one may use social media to achieve a broad range of market research purposes, from assessing different companies’ marketing strategies to analyzing online activism and many more.
Gretzel, U. (2018). Social media activism in tourism. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism, 15(2), 1-14.
Kaur, K., & Kumar, P. (2020). Social media usage in Indian beauty and wellness industry: A qualitative study. TQM Journal, 33(1), 17-32.
Mooi, E., Sarstedt, M., & Mooi-Reci, I. (2018). Market research: The process, data, and methods using stata. Springer.