Lessons in doing research using social media

10. March 2009 – 11:53 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

As part of my work for TuTech and on my scientific work at the University of Hamburg I use social media tools for research purposes on a daily basis. Tools like Google Trends or Backtype make is possible to take a deep look into what is going on in the Social Web both on an aggregated level (qualitative data) and on a content level (qualitative data). In other words social media tools are not only a great thing to do research ON but also to do research WITH.

Yesterday I started to post tweets on what I have learnt so far about this kind of work using the hashtag (a term linking a post to a certain topic) #socialmediascience. Below you can see my first six tips on how to use social media for research. I will keep on posting these kinds of tips using the hashtag and you can take a look at the full list of them either by searching on Twitter or by following me directly. I also invite everybody to post similar tips using the #socialmediascience hashtag.

  • Frist tip: Combine different social media sources to get a complete picture of a topic over time. For example: Google Trends, Backtype, etc.
  • Second Tip: URL hacking and scripting makes research on social media much more efficient. #socialmediascience
  • Third tip: Google Trends even gives you .csv outputs of the data. Very convenient! #socialmediascience
  • 4th tip: Total numbers (of posts etc.) mean almost nothing, because search engine never cover all blogs, Tweets etc. #socialmediascience
  • 5th tip: You need to work with specific search terms. The qualitative work to find these is extremely important. #socialmediascience
  • 6th tip: Research social media is no exact science (yet). Be bold about this fact and explain the short comings. #socialmediascience
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