Take a slice, and we’ll get started.

At the moment in BCM210 we are starting to explore the practical side of Research and Media Practices. We have been asked to design and conduct questionnaires. In an effort to pilot my questionnaire, I sat down and interviewed a fellow UOW student, Alex Brewer, who has very kindly given me consent to use his name on my blog.

Because I actually sat down and asked Alex questions, rather than have him complete a hand-out of the questionnaire, the interaction can be classed as an interview. An interview is simply a conversation between a researcher and a respondent (McCutcheon 2015). Though the ‘interview’ itself was fairly informal (and by informal, I mean sitting-on-a-lounge-eating-pizza informal)

I used pizza as bribery to get Alex to help out with the interview.

I used pizza as bribery to get Alex to help out with the interview.

the style of questions I asked could classify it as a structured interview, as it had similar questions to the questionnaire. The advantage of this style of interview are that you are provided with answers that relate directly to your questions, which would allow you to easily compare findings between respondents (Weerakkody 2009; in McCutcheon 2015). The ability to easily compare findings will be important for our questionnaire. The addition of open-ended questions for the purpose of the interview, could also classify it as a semi-structured interview (McCutcheon 2015).

At the beginning of the interview I asked Alex demographic-based questions to establish gender, student-status and employment-status. In order to collect accurate results, I voice-recorded the interview (so that I would have the joy of being able to listen to my own voice on record, which is always fun, and not at all cringe-inducing). When I listened to our first take, I realised that I was unintentionally asking leading questions (Berger 2014; in McCutcheon 2015), so for the second recording I made sure to stick to my questions. The purpose of conducting this interview was to pilot the questionnaire. We will be unable to obtain any extra information from the questionnaire, because instead of having a conversation with each respondent to collect information, we will simply be handing them a piece of paper to fill out. This meant that I needed to make sure we would be getting enough information from our questions, because we won’t be able to ask for additional information.

From this pilot, I found that the questions worked quite well. However, when asked question 7, ‘On a scale of 1 –5, how influenced are your purchasing decisions by social media (1 being extremely influenced, and 5 being not influenced in any way)?’ Alex responded with two different answers. He was ‘extremely influenced’ by people’s posts on social media, but was ‘not influenced at all’ by ads on social media. This brings up an interesting point that will need to be addressed, and clarified in the questionnaire.

Myself and my group for the Survey and Interview, each filled out the questionnaire and discussed our own results, but conducted separate interviews. Now we will be able to report back and discuss what we found worked and what didn’t with respondents before we actually hand out the questionnaires.

How is everyone else finding the creation of questionnaires? Has anyone else piloted theirs yet with similar results? I recently read a great post for this week’s topic over on Flog My _Blog, written by a fellow UOW BCM210 student, so check that out here. I also found some great tips from Monash University on conducting research interviews that may be helpful, so check that out here.

Reference List:

McCutcheon, M 2015, BCM210 Lecture 6 Interviews Focus Groups: 2015 lecture slides: 15th April 2015, UOW, Semester 1, 2015.

The Art of Refining Really Broad Research Topics

In preparation for an upcoming research assignment, I have been reading up on the impacts of social media. Broad, I know. In an attempt to narrow my search, I have specifically been researching the impact social media has on marketing.

It was along this line of research that I came across a paper recording a Turkish-based study conducted by İrem Eren Erdoğmuş, of Marmara University, and Mesut Çiçek, of Yalova University (other than these small details, and their contact information, there is little information provided about the authors or their qualifications). The aim of their research paper was to focus on the how social media marketing has been utilised as a means of building brand loyalty.

As a CMS and Commerce student, with an interest in Marketing and Public Relations, this topic really stood out to me. The Internet has become a driving force in marketing, especially in the past decade with the emergence of social media. In this paper, social media is defined as “activities, practises, and behaviours among communities of people who gather online to share information, knowledge, and opinions using conversations media” (Safko & Brake 2009, s.6, cited in Erdoğmuş & Çiçek 2012). Social media are communicative tools with the distinct properties of Web 2.0, in that they are participatory, collaborative, knowledge-sharing and user-empowering tools that are available on the web (Robinson, 2007, cited in Erdoğmuş & Çiçek 2012). By utilising social media for marketing purposes, companies can better communicate with customers, and build relationships and loyalty, that would be hard to achieve via traditional methods (Jackson, 2011; Akhtar, 2011, cited in Erdoğmuş & Çiçek 2012). This background information is from Erdoğmuş & Çiçek’s Literature Review and Hypothesis Building section of the paper. This section not only provides the reader with background knowledge of the topic, but shows what research and information was available prior to this study being conducted.

Erdoğmuş & Çiçek collected their data through questionnaires, designed to measure brand loyalty; the reasons to follow brands on social media; and content categories shared on social media. Their sample was refined using two filter questions to make sure that participants fit the requirements of the research. If the answers to both of the questions were positive, then the respondent was given the questionnaire. I thought this was a very clever way to filter, to actually find people who were relevant to the study, to save both time and money.

The research paper is set out in a typical style, written in a formal format with sections of information broken up under relevant headings. I found the paper read progressively, with the information flowing from one section to the next. After the Data Collection and Methodology section comes the Findings, which includes methods of analysis and tables presenting the data and findings. This is then followed by the paper’s Conclusion. The aim of the study was to understand the effect social media marketing is having on brand loyalty formation, from the perspective of the consumers (Erdoğmuş & Çiçek 2012). The results from the study concluded that a significant contribution was to practise and literature. Social media marketing, at that point in time, was defined as a new, albeit growing platform for building those positive relationships with customers and developing positive brand images. A drawback to this paper is that it was written in 2012, and when dealing with such a rapidly changing and evolving medium, three years can be seen as a long time.

I don’t believe that this paper, or its findings are out-dated, but this was written in a time when social media was only just developing as a tool for modern marketing. I still believe it to be a well-conducted study and a well-written paper. I still find this information relevant, and even helpful to my own studies.

Reference List:

Erdoğmuş, İ. E. & Çiçek, M 2012, ‘The Impact of Social Media Marketing on Brand Loyalty’, Procedia – Social and Behavioural Sciences, vol. 58, pp.1353–1360. 

Whose information is it anyway?

Social media websites have increasingly been utilised as research tools, presenting new opportunities to researchers. However, this new and diverse form of research tool has raised challenges and concerns (Moreno et al. 2013). Social media websites gather personal information from users when they open an account, such as name, gender, birthdate, and country of residence. But information is also collected from their patterns of usage. These include time of use; frequency; people and trends followed; use of external links etc. This information is stored, analysed and utilised by social media websites. This new form of media research, although advantageous, is raising new issues of media research ethics.

In an experiment conducted by Kramer (Core Data Science Team, Facebook, Inc.), Guillory and Hancock (both from the Departments of Communication and Information Science, Cornell University), Facebook examined the experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Their purpose was to find out whether “emotional contagions” affect the emotions of social media users. So in other words, whether emotions of social media users and their content was contagious to other users.

Facebook’s experiment raised ethical concerns surrounding the way in which the information was collected. The team used filtering software that allowed the researchers to filter through user’s News Feeds. The filtering system was consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research. However, the 689, 003 participants, who were chosen at random, were not informed that they were being part of the study. There was no level of informed consent.

Since being published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences, Facebook’s Emotional Manipulation Study has led to concerns of how this type of media research is being carried out (Hunter 2014). The PNAS editor-in-chief, Inder M. Verma, has since acknowledged “questions have been raised about the principles of informed consent and opportunity to opt out” (Hunter 2014). Verma has however defended the paper, arguing that it was consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy at the time. This issue is that clauses of the policy regarding research were only added four months after the experiment took place (Hunter 2014).

In Hunter’s (2014) review of the research paper, he questions whether the experiment, conducted by researchers from both Facebook and Cornell University, think that they did not need the approval of a research ethics committee. The editor-in-chief argues that because this was an internal experiment by Facebook, that the university’s Institutional Review Board determined that the project “didn’t fall under Cornell’s Human Research Protection Program” (Hunter 2014.

There are many factors to consider in a case where human research is concerned. Hunter’s article goes into more detail concerning the ethical debate of the research article, and is a really interesting read to accompany to Facebook’s research, so it is definitely worth checking out.

I believe it is important to remember, that in the case of social media research, social media companies are not just the sites we interact with on a daily basis, but huge enterprises with a lot of corporate power. These corporations have access to a great deal of personal information, for their own use in social media research, but also for the use of external companies, for the right price.

If you are concerned about your personal information of social networking sites, check out the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website, for more information, because as a social media user, you have the right to know who has access to what you put online.

Reference List

Kramer, A. D. I., Guillory, J. E. & Hancock, J. T. 2014, ‘Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 111, no. 24, pp. 8788-8790.

Hunter, D 2014, Facebook puts ethics of research by private companies in spotlight, The Conversation, viewed viewed 9.04.2015, <http://theconversation.com/facebook-puts-ethics-of-research-by-private-companies-in-spotlight-28798&gt;.