Defining Social Media Research - Postcards from the MRS Social Media Research conference

Defining Social Media Research - Postcards from the MRS Social Media Research conference

For those who missed the conference on September 23rd – it proved to be a very interesting day.

For my part, I was on the panel in the afternoon session discussing: “Driving the validity of social media research”, which perhaps raised more questions than it answered. That’s not altogether surprising – any new area of research in the early adoption phase is likely to take a while to “bed in.”

There was a lot of discussion about what Social Media Research (SMR) actually is and what should it be called.

At its broadest you could define SMR as any research that uses social media as a measurement tool, or even any research that measures the use of social media. Given this is a rather broad church, I find it more helpful to think of SMR in terms of a continuum of what it offers:


From the left hand side of the spectrum, tools tend to offer more basic measures of brand buzz on the web; as we move along to the right, we get increasingly sophisticated levels of searching, reporting and integration with other data sources.

On the far right we are in a position where we can provide customers’ sentiment analysis for specific product features, use the findings with other data sources and research methodologies, connect the dots and provide advanced analysis of the results.

Most companies offering SMR will fit somewhere on this spectrum and I suggest that if you want to get the most out of you SMR programme then you look for organisations operating on the right!

If you have a definition of SMR or a conceptual model it can fit into – we would love to hear from you.

In the meantime another debate is what do we call this new discipline? “Web Listening”, “Social Media Monitoring” and “Social Media Netnography” are just some of the terms we’ve heard to describe the monitoring aspect of SMR. If you have an alternative phrase that you think makes more sense please tweet or email us – we’ll send a prize for the best one.

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