December 2012 Archives

Monitoring Social Media Platforms with Hootsuite

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Hootsuite is a very valuable tool in social media management and analytics. I use it at my job as a manager of social media at the University of Minnesota's Housing & Residential Life central office.

Hootsuite allows me to have all of my social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter in my case) open on a single dashboard. This allows me to easily track what is going on in the social realms of the Housing network.

Some additional perks to Hootsuite include the ability to post to multiple social media platforms at once, the ability to schedule posts, and the ability to analyze data.

The analytics tool is a very popular feature because it tracks the followers that your network has and how effective each message is that gets sent out. These are very valuable tools to have while attempting to optimize the usage of a company's social media networks.

Cook Research & Consulting, Inc.

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Cook Research & Consulting, Inc. is a marketing research firm location in the Twin Cities. It focuses on helping clients to understand the changing marketplace in order to stay connected with their customers.

Cook offers both qualitative and quantitative research and analysis. This helps them gain a well-rounded understanding of client trends and needs.

Qualitative research that they perform often involves:
Focus groups
In-depth or one-on-one interviews
Taste tests

Quantitative research that they perform often involves:
Mail surveys
Telephone surveys
Internet surveys
E-based surveys

The experience that Cooks Research & Consulting, Inc. has in statistical analytics allows for some very valuable insight into their clients' consumers.

Facebook knows what I want...and when I want it.

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The ads on Facebook always seem to know exactly what I'm looking for. For example, I recently bought an iPhone 5 from AT&T. If you look at the accompanied image, you can see that my Facebook profile had advertisements for iPhone 5 cases as well as AT&T service along the side of my homepage this afternoon. It also has an advertisement for Minnesota apparel...I live in Minnesota. Coincidence? Not in this online marketing realm.

Screen Shot 2012-12-05 at 10.06.10 PM.png (OBA) is system that companies use to collect information about your online behavior. They take into account the websites that you visit most often and use that information to direct ads towards you that they think will interest you the most.

So the next time an ad pops up on your Facebook page about Rome while you're planning your trip to Europe, don't be too surprised.

Confidentiality and Anonymity in Research

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Ethics is an important topic within the research realm, and getting consent from research participants is an ethical obligation for researchers.

The above image is the information that a research is providing to their participants in order to gain the participant's consent to be included in the research process. It includes a brief description of what the researcher is measuring, why the researcher is performing the study and what they will gain from it. Most importantly to many, however, is the information that it provides to participants regarding their confidentiality and anonymity.

Confidentiality in research means that the researcher will not release any information to the public that will identify their participants.
Anonymity is similar to confidentiality but is a further step towards disclosure as it prevents any data within the research to identify participants. This makes it so that even the researcher does not know who provided what information to the study.

Confidentiality and anonymity agreements are extremely important practices in research. Any violation of these agreements become ethical issues and could also become legal issues depending on the gravity of the circumstances.

Genders Differ in How They Use Emoticons

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A study done in October 2012 at Rice University shows how genders differ when it comes to the use of emoticons.

The study was performed over a six-month period in which students at Rice University received free iPhones and were tracked based on their usage of emoticons.

Results showed that females tended to use emoticons twice as often as males and that they used a larger variety of them. For example, while men may use a smiley face every once in a while, women were more likely to use a smiley face, a frowny face, etc. on a regular basis.

Phil Kortum, a psychology assistant at Rice University points out:
"There's some social science research that suggests that women are generally more emotionally expressive than men. So the finding that women use more emoticons is not horribly surprising."

While the results may not be surprising, it is important to be aware of the sampling of this research before making larger assumptions. This research was conducted among college students. The way that younger, educated demographics perform on smartphones may be very different from the way in which an older demographic or a group of young people who have not received a higher education may perform on smartphones.

Same Sex Marriage Poll

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This graph expresses the results of an opinion poll conducted by CNN in 2011. The poll was inquired about the opinions of Americans regarding the legality of same sex marriages in the United States.

We can see here that based on the results, since 1988 the American population has grown more in favor of the legalization of same sex marriages and has declined in opposition. For the first time ever, American proposition of same sex marriage is greater than the opposition.

Below is an image of CNN's sampling and collection of data for this poll. By viewing this we can see how different demographics (gender, race, age, education, region, etc.) tend to feel regarding same sex marriage in the United States.

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As a Public Relations major, I am currently and continuing to become very involved with social media and the best ways to use such media to reach target audiences. I recently spoke with some market researchers at the locally based advertising agency, Risdall.

At Risdall, I was told all about how social media today is being used and what makes it most effective. This is what I learned about our society's current social media state:

Facebook is often used as an avenue for entertainment (sharing photos, videos, etc.)
Twitter is an informational platform (news, tips, updates, etc.)
Pinterest is commonly used as a way to sell products, similarly to online shopping

After learning all about this, I thought that it would be interesting to perform research on how college students differ from their parents' age group (50-60) in how (or if) each group utilizes social media.

Demographics are an important consideration in research. When conducting surveys, it is always a good idea to include questions about the participants' demographics (age, gender, race, income, etc.) in order to get a general idea of their lifestyles and commonalities. One common questions however, is regarding where in a survey is the best place for these demographic questions in order to optimize participant responses.

Some believe that the beginning of the survey is the best place for the demographic questions because that way the respondent is more likely to answer them as opposed to after completing a long survey.

Others believe that the end of the survey is the best place for the demographic questions because if the participants are exposed to the demographic questions before viewing the rest of the survey, they may be inclined to be lest honest in their responses due to the fear that they will be considered a stereotype.

Research supports both viewpoints to be valid depending on the situation. Richard N. Landers breaks it down for us in his article: Where to Place Demographics on Your Surveys. It is important to know exactly what your survey is trying to accomplish before deciding on the best placement for demographic questions. This will aid in receiving more honest and complete responses from participants.

The Use of Social Media in Natural Disasters

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Isn't it amazing how fast a simple comment or picture can go viral via Twitter, Facebook, or other means of social media?

The growth of these media over the past decade has been immense. The impact of social media is clearly evident when you look at Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. Only seven years apart, the changes in social media are shocking.

Hurricane Katrina (August 2005)
When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, social media was only on the brink of explosion. At this time, however, the term "citizen journalists" was beginning to become more apparent as there was a rise in blogging and wikis.

While these blogs and wikis allowed for the public to have their own experiences more accessible to the public, they did not have the same immediate effect on the large audience that social media does today.

What if today's social media had been prevalent in the lives of Katrina victims at the time of the hurricane? Would this have led to more useful relief efforts? A post by Marc Meyer on Social Media Today, Social Media and Hurricane Katrina: What If? discusses how the social media sphere of the present may or may not have led to better disaster relief efforts.

Hurricane Sandy (October 2012)
Hurricane Sandy touched down in the last week of October 2012. Contrary to 2005, social media was more prevalent in how the disaster was covered and how people communicated.

This is beneficial to disaster relief in many ways, most prevalently in how accessible information is to hurricane victims. In today's social media realm, disaster relief comes immediately and accessibly, with people like President Barack Obama posting link to where the public can assist in relief efforts.

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In addition to the relief efforts, the public today is getting a much better and more personable perspective to the affects and happenings surrounding the hurricane. Citizen journalists post about their own accounts of the hurricane on Twitter and Facebook, and are able to post videos and photos through media such as YouTube and Instagram.

There are even some jokes being made about Hurricane Sandy that have gone viral. One of the most recent jokes has been a comparison of the hurricane to the popular SpongeBob SquarePants character, Sandy the squirrel.


So there you have it. Social media is evolving. We live in an age where information is not only becoming more accessible, but it is becoming accessible from many different outlets. Watch out for more; It's not stopping here!

Survey Sampling & Incentives

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The above image is of an email that was sent to my University of Minnesota email address. It is for a research survey regarding tobacco use and exposure. The people conducting this research are using a combination of multiple sampling methods in order to gain data for their research. They also used some incentive in order to attract more participants.

Below I will lay out four sampling methods that were potentially used for finding participants in this survey:

Convenience sampling:
This is a sampling method based on the convenience to the researcher. A researcher will find a sample that is easily accessible and choose them for their sample set. In this particular case, it was convenient for the researchers of the tobacco use survey to send this email out to a listserv containing all current students' email addresses.

Random sampling:
The email that I received states that I was selected to participate in this survey via a random sample.
Random sampling is one of the most common methods of probability sampling. It could be implemented in a variety of ways including throwing dice, lotteries, drawing names from a hat, etc. In the case of this survey, I would assume that the random sampling was done via some form of random electronic selection among current University of Minnesota student email addresses.

Purposive/Judgmental sampling:
This sampling method is based on the idea that a certain person or group of people will meet specific criteria that the researcher holds for their data collection. In this case, the researchers may be most interested in learning about the opinions of young, educated individuals regarding the topic of tobacco use and exposure. If this were the case, it was wise for them to have chosen students at a large university such as the University of Minnesota as their target sample.

Volunteer sampling:
This is a sampling method that relies solely on a peoples' willingness to participate. While some form of incentive may supplement this, it is based on the idea that the participant will not be compensated for their participation in the research. Also, it is not mandatory that these people participate at all; it is their own decision.
Volunteer sampling is used in this instance as the people who were selected to receive the invitation to participate in the survey are not required to do so and may only be inclined to do so based on their willingness to participate.

In addition to these sampling methods, I want to briefly touch on the incentive that was provided in order to get participants to take the survey. The email mentions that if a participant completes the survey, they will be eligible to win one of five $100 gift card to the University of Minnesota Bookstore. This is a great way to encourage voluntary participation in surveys, especially among young audiences like college students who are often looking for deals and extra spending money.

Research Biases

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The importance of accounting for selection biases is vital while setting out prediction polls, as well as in all other aspects of research and research planning.

The above article by Nate Silver, a statistician who correctly predicted the United States' 2012 presidential winner of each state and the District of Columbia, discusses how polls that are conducted within the presidential campaigns are much more prone to biases than external polls performed by the public. In addition, it is more likely that a campaign will reveal their findings to the public if these results are favorable towards their candidate. This way they are able to sway public opinion more effectively.

Snacking Research

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The above study by the marketing research group NPD Group discusses the benefits of snacking in maintaining a healthy diet. The results of the study are described well; however there are some limitations that remain unclear regarding whom these results refer to, who is benefitting from these results and how relevant these results are to peoples' lives today.

The first limitation that I found in this study is "To whom are these results referring to and benefiting?" For instance, the results show that while snacking in general throughout the day has become a more common occurrence for many, late-night snacking in particular is a habit that has decreased. I am curious about who this study is referring to when they say that late-night snacking has decreased. In my own personal experience as a busy college student, late at night is a very common time to snack on foods while staying up to finish homework. Is this study taking this outlier into account when studying current snacking trends?

In addition to the question about who these results are referring to and benefitting, It is necessary to know how long of a timeframe this study was conducted over in order to understand why the current trends are the way they are and whether or not a recent occurrence has influenced this. Without understanding this timeframe, it is harder to determine how relevant these findings about snacking are in the lives of people today. A new and exclusive finding is more likely to effect how much people are willing to change their lifestyle and consumption habits than a finding that is being reiterated for a third or fourth time.

Cross-Channel Marketing

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A study performed by Trumpia, a tool that allows users to send their individual messages out to someone by reaching all of their communication devices, shows that their customers respond more to SMS and multi-channel marketing technology than ever before. This research is backed up by the fact that more and more people are using their mobile devices for more than just phone calls, and therefore they rely on their phones much more often.

Many smartphone devices today give people access to phone, email and text messages, among many other communication venues. This makes it a great reason to implement multi-channel marketing strategies. The many channels make it so that the recipient will surely and efficiently view the message due to their interaction with their smartphone device.

It must be noted that not every target customer/consumer of a business will have a smartphone device that allows for easy and constant access to different communication venues. It is also doubtful that every targeted member will have access to any combination of multiple communication venues.

So, while this research allows for more companies to implement cross-channel marketing strategies in order to be able to reach more of their customers more effectively, it is important to take into account who the message is intended for. It is important to note the demographics of the target audience and conclude from that where the best marketing venue exists.

Gophers After Dark Survey

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I recently completed a survey regarding Gophers After Dark, a program at the University of Minnesota that puts on student event throughout the school year. This survey was posted by one of my peers on Facebook, asking students at the University to please compete it for her as well as share it among their own friends at the University.

As a student currently active in a research course, I felt an obligation towards this girl to help her with her research collection. I shared the survey with my friends. In this way, I participated in snowball sampling. We learned about this method in research class. It involves using members of a network to introduce you to other members of the network.

So you see, I am a student at the University of Minnesota who introduced the survey to other students at the University of Minnesota in order to give my peer a larger sample for her data collection.

In addition to helping her collect more data for her survey by sharing it, I participated in it myself. While taking the survey, I was sure to pay attention to some of the details and strategies that often go into developing a successful survey.

I noticed the use of semantic scales. These scales contain opposite terms and the participant must determine their position on this scale. The example of a semantic scale below uses the terms "not likely" and "likely" to determine how likely it is for the study participant to attend a University of Minnesota event if it is not advertised as a Gopher's After Dark event.

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The survey continued with similar methods, asking questions pertaining to the participants' personal experience in attending Gopher's After Dark events and their own feelings towards them.

"Scientists say"

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Consider this meme:


While not all researchers are considered scientists, a lot of people take what they say and apply it to themselves or their surrounding environment, sometimes without question. People who perform research hold power in what they discover through their work, and the way that they present said research influences the actions that people take in response to it.

Framing is a concept that is important to consider in all aspects of research. A researcher must use their strategic judgment to determine the most effective ways to present their findings to the public. According to Gerald M. Kosicki at Sage Research Methods, "...framing refers to the careful use of language or other symbols in public discourse...Framing is an important construct in the measurement and understanding of public opinion."

The researcher bears the responsibility of revealing their findings in an honest fashion while still getting their main point across, however it is the responsibility of the public to determine how these research findings came to be and how they can effectively be applied to a lifestyle or concept.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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