Twitter Can Enhance but not Replace Qualitative Research Efforts

As Twitter recently celebrated its 5th birthday, we’ve reviewed what we and others have said about Twitter and its impact on qualitative research. Said in 140 characters or fewer: the truth about Twitter sits between the idea that it will replace focus groups, and the idea that it doesn’t matter as a tool to researchers.

Last August, Jim blogged about comments in response to a BNET article doubting the value of social media to researchers.

As Twitter marches on, it bears watching how the story unfolds, but a recent The Times of India article, “Can Twitter be a potent research tool?,” continues the framing of the debate.

“Listening to Twitter is like only listening to the one loudmouth in the focus group,” said Justin Gibbons, founding partner of Work Research. “Twitter is a stage and Tweeters are often acting out roles on it. Qualitative research has come a long way. We use the latest neuroscience and behavioural economics to create new ways of asking questions and getting meaningful responses.”

Jim blogged in 2009 about the pros and cons of using Twitter as a component of qualitative research. It does skew to people posturing. And it won’t replace structured qualitative research. But ignore it at your peril. We believe Twitter (and other social media tools):

1. Add texture to structured research, by listening in on what consumers are already saying, and
2. Add a recruiting channel to existing efforts to attract feedback.

There are effective ways to add social tools to your online qualitative research. And as Twitter and online behaviour evolves, the story might change. But, for now, it can enhance your research efforts.

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