Will social media replace surveys?

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Social media has emerged as a deep well of opinion but remains an enigma for market researchers, said Debjani Deb, co-founder and managing partner of EmPower Research.

When limitations can be overcome, said Deb at the Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group (PMRG) Institute, user-generated platforms can be mined for insights. Converting unstructured data to a structured form is possible, Deb said, by using pattern recognition tools, along with human analysis.

Deb said websites can be used as a precursor to traditional research (e.g., mapping out a treatment landscape and identifying stakeholders), adding that social media may start to replace some survey research and also make it harder to do by changing consumer expectations.

She quoted P&G's Joan Lewis: “The more people see two-way engagement and being able to interact with people all over the world, I think the less they want to be involved in structured research.”

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