Social media is one of the dominant forms of interactions on the Internet. Leading platforms such as Facebook and Twitter count hundreds of millions of users each month. In this article, I will show you how social media is a rich vein of data for user researchers. I will argue that it would be an oversight for an organization to treat social media as nothing more than an opportunity for customer service enquiries, help requests and brand advocacy.
In the commercial sector, social media is a source of data about users that often gets ignored in favor of other more controlled user research activities, such as interviews and user testing. (Though, it is often used to recruit participants for these traditional methods.) Conversely, in the academic world, social media was immediately recognized as an interesting primary source of data. But it has been typically addressed with quantitative research methods, such as visualizing information flows between network members and graphing peaks of activity, which are not so relevant in most typical user research projects.
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