This month, National Public Radio released the results of a study of their Facebook and Twitter followers. Rather than prattle on about the results (which you can read here for Twitter and here for Facebook, or see embedded below), I was more interested in the fact that they used their social network base for market research.
First off, this is a great concrete example of the notion I have held for years now: that social media presents an unprecedented opportunity to conduct market research. The hardest part of research (as I learned in my days working for Kathryn Korostoff), whether quantitative (surveys etc) or qualitative (focus groups, etc) is always finding the people to populate your sample.
The first step in this new social media phase was trying to collect opinions among the public blogs that started popping up in the mid-2000’s (through the still-evolving monitoring tools). Now, self-contained social networks have made it even easier, not least of which because anyone (or any company) has their own group of people following them.
That said, there are still major caveats – people who follow you on Twitter or Facebook have expressed an affinity, and are likely to be a biased group. In the case of NPR’s surveys. this was not an obstacle, as the survey was about why people follow them and how they use online media to follow NPR content. If you are surveying people to find if they like your brand, you are probably best served going outside (not to mention, remembering that Twitter, and even Facebook, is not representative of all the population – at least not yet.