Facebook for Research?

For the last week or so I’ve been hard at work on a site dealing with International Removals. The idea has been to get some nice fat ranking results and use social to squirt some link juice on the “moving to..” pages. Working in the Social Media environment I’m all too aware of the facts regarding the user stats for Facebook yet, having also been using the site on a personal level long before a professional one, I was also aware of  how much of that whopping statistic is likely to be useless.

A short scurry showed how much I’d under-estimated the useless quota . Surely all those lovely groups would be a good way to garner information on what people want to know about moving to another country? Instead, it proved to be yet another lesson in the own-going education that this job is providing.

fbmarketLet’s look at the results for one search that were typical of what I found. The only difference being the destination: Moving To Canada. I, naively was hoping to find a few people trying to find out what they would need for their immigration dreams.

No. Try page after page of the displayed image. This is one of the very few screen shots available that didn’t involve racist, sexist, offensive and otherwise unusable images.

Whilst this manages to serve as an example of how fickle a certain nation can be – without wanting to offend any readers – it’s more an example of how little use Facebook can be for garnering market information. Not because of the type of group or search term, merely due to the lack of substance in the response.

Even looking at the image reveals that while these groups had thousands of members each, they’re all shedding images. Which means that not only is the potential market not likely to follow up on their statement, they’re actually retracting it.

There’s also the sheer proliferation of these groups. In theory there need only be half a dozen. Instead, rather than join an existing group that shared their feelings, they created their own. As is their right, don’t get me wrong. But if this principal were applied in the area these groups are dedicated there would be hundreds of political parties and not one of them would get anywhere.

THAT'S not ecommerce

THAT'S not ecommerce

While the idea of trusting market research has never been a sound one, the motivation in using social networking sites was to gain an insight into what the target demographic was feeling. However, with the ease of creation and user-control of such sites that makes these sites so successful and attractive, also makes them irrelevant from an information gathering point of view. Not only that, but the sheer amount of such groups and trolls puts it worryingly close to the domain inhabited by early network-sites (anyone remember Bolt?) and about as much use as the spam-covered Google Groups.

Of course, the lack of being used from a marketing point of view makes Facebook users happier. Creating a pool of target demographic information isn’t its goal. It’s there as a social interaction site etc and etc. However, if there is no intelligent qualitative market research available from it, how long before businesses stop paying attention? If they’re getting nothing from it by way of usable information are they really going to sponsor it with advertising cash? Especially when, as a user, I know how very little banner ads get looked at let alone clicked on.

I wasn’t even looking for an appropriate place to throw up an advert, nor was I looking to grab traffic or send people to the sites I’ve been working on. I simply wanted to know what they wanted to know. Marketing agencies and professionals (and I’m no exception) often suggest that Facebook, Myspace etc is a barely-touched pool of customer data just waiting to be tapped.  Problem is that if I were to use the information I gathered  I’d be building sites that provided information as to which political figures were in office in another country as information on Moving to Canada.

So with the sheer wealth of user-orientated sites and forums out there, where can accurate consumer information be found without having to wade through pages of the above? Or can it? I’m not talking about haranguing with questions and surveys either, just simple, “what do our customers want?” And, if there is no way for companies to hear the social-buzz on their product or industry, will they start looking to place their advertising and marketing budgets elsewhere and how long will the sites last then? Will the user-orientated, no businesses element that started these sites become their downfall?

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  1. Seems as simple as monitoring the amount of duplicate groups on Facebook, perhaps putting some kind of request system in. That would certainly help moderate content too.

    Personally, I don’t want anything advertised to me through the site, especially one picking up on personal details. Facebook seems to think I’m some kind of stock gambler, probably unemployed, looking for love and need of a Star Trek quiz every 10 minutes.

    And I have no interest in the stock market.

  2. Absolutely, Facebook seem to have gotten the idea that I’m balding and need constant banners that suggest I see to my vanishing hairline and ever-more apparent crown urgently. Neither of which are true though it did make me check frantically.

    I’m not one to endorse banner ads or advertising on such sites but I do realise it is really the only way FB can pitch for financing and hope to get it. With run-costs as high as theirs though I think it’s going to continue.

    I’d like to see some form of moderation in the group system. If only to reduce constant repetition.




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