All "a-Twitter" about Qual

Twitter is a new phenomenon that seems to be taking the world by storm.  Everyone from gradeschoolers to the President seem to be “twittering.”  Can it be an asset in qualitative research?  I don’t know.  However, the folks at S&R Communications ( penned an appropriately short article on benefits and drawbacks to using Twitter for qualitative research.

Whether it’s biased or not, that’s another subject. But with the ever-growing third-party applications being developed for use with Twitter growing daily, like Twellow, TweetBeep, NearbyTweets, and Tweetdeck, Twitter provides the ripe medium to use for qualitative market research.

Plugged-in gives a great list of pros and cons (below) of why you might want to look to Twitter for your next market research project.

The benefits of using Twitter for qualitative research

  • It’s free & easy – We’ll start with one obvious benefit – Twitter is free and fairly easy to mine for information. All kinds of third-party services exist to help see the latest trends, hot topics, etc…
  • It’s fast – If you have an active group of followers you can get answers to your questions quickly.
  • It’s “natural” – Twitter is an existing social network that can be mined for feedback in a “natural” setting.

  • The 140 character limit – I don’t know about other qualitative researchers out there, but I’d be pretty disappointed if someone constantly responded with 140 character responses in an online focus group or research community. Twitter’s limit of 140 characters per “tweet” doesn’t exactly lead to the most insightful and articulate responses from a group of research participants… Granted, you can just post a few tweets as a response, but that kind of defeats the purpose of micro-blogging.
  • Who are you talking to? As with any research in existing communities, there is no established process for determining if the people you are talking to actually fit the profile of your target audience. While you could actively recruit to find Twitter users who meet your criteria, it still would be tricky to ensure you’re talking to the right people…
  • It’s “artificial” – While mining an existing community or social network (like Twitter) can be a “natural” and semi-ethnographic way to conduct research, it is still a bit contrived at the same time. Many people are tweeting with the goal of being perceived in a certain manner. That kind of “posturing” doesn’t help qualitative researchers.
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