Facebook Is Not A Focus Group
November 13, 2012
From time to time we see brands – whether it's an actual product or person - asking questions on Facebook as if they are using it as research. While it may be tempting to use your posts as a platform for feedback, don't mistake Facebook with even qualitative research like focus groups. This past week, Motley Crue's Nikki Six was the latest to fall into this trap.
Whether this comes from Nikki, his producers, or someone handling social media for his shows, I couldn't help but wonder what they thought they were even going to do with input from random, unvetted people who spontaneously saw this question and commented about the state of "radio in 2012":
Of the 1,700 + that responded – there were all kinds of people from all kinds of countries chiming in – there were also disgruntled, displaced radio people as well as fans of the medium who spoke up.
And while the complaints were often typical (radio plays the same songs over and over, there are too many commercials), radio fans made their presence known:
So what's the problem with a little Q&A on Facebook?
As a brand strategist in the social space, when I see this type of "looking for input" tactic play out socially, it is merely a reminder that these platforms are still not fully understood.
Sites like Facebook are not conducive for research. They are built for discovery and fan development. They offer brands a chance to tell their stories visually and have fans re-tell that story (hopefully) in the way you want it told.
Smart brands use this space we "rent" to serve the fan connection and strengthen the assets we "own."
There's just nothing actionable you're going to get from random people. Or is there?
To get to the core of how you pull off actionable research – I went to someone who has spent his entire career in the field, and bettering brands through his study – my boss, Fred Jacobs.
I wanted to make sure my instincts were correct. So I asked him about the importance of vetting people before asking important questions. Shouldn't opinions come from folks in a database or those who fit a certain criteria before a brand can get actionable information from them?
Fred offered this:
"Brands should be careful what they ask for. As we see on Facebook, Twitter, and even comments about news stories, there is a wild, crazy, and often untethered quality online. Some of it stems from anonymity, but many people feel you can say whatever you like in this space. When you don't know who these people are and where they're from, you don't want to draw any hard and fast conclusions.
While a station database has its own set of limitations, people who sign up for your emails are far more valuable. First, they signed up – and that's a start. Second, you can go back and survey them to get more info (demographics, media habits, favorite bands, etc.).
Finally, there's the end result of asking a question on Facebook, too. A database survey is private, but social media is "out there." You have to be prepared for trolls, hijackers, and other users with an agenda who use the space to further their own points of view. Nikki's team may have been well-meaning when they asked an important question about radio, but you have to be ready for just about any response.
And you certainly can't take it to the bank."
But if you don't want to take my word as a social strategist or the words of a successful veteran researcher – just listen to the famous Nicholas Steven Kidmann, "former" fan of Nikki Six:
Thanks to WRIF/Detroit afternoon star Meltdown and WRIF's legendary midday talent Anne Carlini for giving me the heads up on this Nikki Six "market research."
Reach out to me anytime on Twitter @lorilewis.
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