Synergizing Natural and Research Communities: Towards a Perfect Synergy Between Listening Into Conversations On 'Natural' and On 'Research' Communities

Annelies Verhaeghe, Tom De Ruyck, Carel Vereijken, Niels Schillewaert and Stephan Ludwig


Research panels are under a lot of pressure: for far too long we have treated panels as ordinary databases. As a result, response rates to traditional surveys are in decline and it becomes harder to motivate people to participate in research projects. As researchers, we have to look into alternatives that still allow us to learn about the attitudes and behavior of consumers.

Thanks to the rise of social media, a whole new stream of consumer information became available and our industry is embracing it as the new Walhalla. By using methods like ‘social media nethnography’ in which online conversations and stories are observed, researchers learn from online sources of textual and visual information that are freely available (Verhaeghe, Van den Berge, Schillewaert, 2009). Instead of asking new input from research participants, existing information is recycled. Because consumers are free to talk about whatever they like, social media nethnography does not only provide answers on research questions one already had but it also gives answers to questions you they did not ask and answers without asking questions.