Being Bruce -: Business Social Media Tip #20 - Social Media as a Research Tool

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Business Social Media Tip #20 - Social Media as a Research Tool

Social media can be a convenient research tool with a time element you won't find elsewhere. Because you can search for what people are saying or posting about topics right now, your searches can have an unmatched immediacy.

Various social media differ in their usefulness as research tools. They won't replace scholarly or scientific historic research (probably ever, right?) but for tracking trends or current news and events, there's no current contender. You likely have noticed that virtually all major news outlets have a presence on Twitter, for example, and not only do they post headlines about major stories (with links to their web sites), they also often have reporters on the scene posting comments and commentary. Amateur news reporting, or maybe it's better called "real person on the street" via Twitter, including immediately uploaded digital images.

So how can you use social media as a research tool for your business? One way is to use key word searching. You can search for terms or phrases significant to your business or industry manually or, by using utilities such as Tweetdeck, set up searches that are updated automatically.

Twitter also has a Trending Topics feature that automatically displays on the home screen the most-talked about topics of the moment.

As social media matures, ever-stronger research tools and techniques will emerge. The value of being able to data mine the contemporaneous online contributions of 10's or 100's of millions of people will spur individuals and companies to invent (and possibly sell) tools for tracking the data you seek for your business.