Social Media and User Research Methods

Social media and online communities of users are increasing and changing user input into new product and service development. We are all familiar with crowdsourcing and monitoring of user input online.

If you haven’t already, consider reading my feature article in the current issue of Social Media Marketing Magazine: In that article I used a deep knowledge / engagement framework to categorize user research methods.

Getting at deep (or “sticky” or “contextual”) user information is the motivation of such research methods as ethnography and voice-of-the-customer.

Engagement is another dimension that draws users to tap their own creativity to improve the product or service. Examples of methods that both access deep knowledge and engage the users would be crowsourcing, open-source software development and the lead user method of Eric Von Hippel. The following diagram shows is my effort to map user research methods by deep knowledge / engagement AND show how social media is already having an impact.

Despite the effects already shown in this figure, this process is in its infancy! Totally new tools will be developed to enhance innovation; existing methods will be modified to the point that they are no longer recognizable by current innovators.

The dotted lines of course indicate contributions from social media. Communities of crowdsourcers or lead users are already contributing. And a new type of quantitative research, “netnography”, is being developed to analyze the results from data mining. I argue that existing methods are being pushed in the directions indicated by the dotted lines.

So, I would like to ask for your ideas:

1. Do you agree with this framework?

2. What new user methods do you see emerging from social media?

Please leave a comment!

Full article in SMM Magazine:

This entry was posted in Co-creation or User collaboration, Customer Research Methods, experiential innovation, Ideation, Social Media Marketing. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Social Media and User Research Methods

  1. Cheri Allbritton says:

    As I look at your graphic I would say that the dotted lines User Community is not only a contributor to deeper user/knowledge but to easy knowledge as well via more than just focus groups and brainstorming. I believe from observing over the past year that there is an age segment approximately 19-35 yr that depend on their User Community for just about every thing they want an answer to not because they can’t easily find it on a search engine, but just to have the opportunity to engage.

  2. yannigroth says:

    Hi Prof. Schirr,
    thinking about your hypotheses (and being interested in co-creation) I’ve got a simple question: does your mapping suggest that the evolution from co-creation to user communities (qu. 4) implies disengagement on the consumer side ?
    You talk about crowdsourcing as a means for brands to leverage social media, but the example you give in your SMMM-article is Threadless… which is a “branded” community. What do you think of these “unbranded” communities of innovation like Crowdtap, Jovoto or eYeka ? Would you also call the user communities ?

  3. My question is, though: would it be meaningful to study user innovation on its own merit? How can user innovators capture the value they create, through (community) entrepreneurship? Is there a way for user innovators to prevent this seemingly very natural desire by corporations to appropriate user-generated innovations? (please do not take this as a politically-charged comment; I am fascinated by the research in user innovation initiated by Eric von Hippel)

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