Here's one way to validate the results of your social media research: follow it up with a traditional research project. I was talking with Sangita Joshi from EmPower Research this morning, and I learned that some clients are using social media analysis is just this way.
Using both social media analysis and traditional research methods to explore the same topic may seem (a) redundant or (b) an admission of problems with social media analysis, but the combination has the potential to play to the strengths of each.
- Social media analysis can uncover new issues. The usual examples in support of listening to social media involve problems that companies didn't know about. Identifying topics in social media may raise issues for further exploration.
- Conclusions from social media analysis can be restated as hypotheses for traditional research. Critics who don't accept the validity of results from text analysis won't mind if the results are presented as hypotheses.
- Traditional research methods bring established techniques for determining the validity of the results. The Old School will be happy.
- Combining traditional research and social media analysis creates an opportunity to compare the results of both methods. What if you measured the degree to which the online universe mirrored the real world?