As we rush to embrace social media, networking and new communications technologies, I’m sometimes left wondering whether, as researchers, we have the potential for losing sight of what really matters.
Sure, being able to have conversations online, anytime with people who are ready and eager to chat is an exhilarating step forward for the research industry, but not if we’re relegated to becoming conversation managers, rather than researchers. Call me old fashioned, but being good with the technology and a confident online conversationalist, doesn’t translate into being a strategic researcher.
Our clients don’t necessarily have the time or skills required to turn respondent discussions into knowledge, so it’s still our responsibility to take the ‘talk’ from our online research communities and analyse it for meaning. We must navigate our way through the words to find the hidden gems and bring them to the surface. Otherwise it becomes a volume game – and more responses doesn’t mean better outcomes.
It’s imperative that as qualitative researchers we continue to examine not just what people say, but why they say it. This comes from understanding human behaviour and motivations, and providing context to the content. The value of what we do comes from creating linkages between words and actions, or our clients’ activities and their customers’ reactions.
There’s already enough chatter on the internet each day that it’s easy to gloss over it all, without really taking anything in. You get a better view from above, and the same goes for online research – take a step back and get a sense of the bigger picture.