Three Most Important Lessons Facebook Taught Me About Research
In 2007, The New York Times had reported that Facebook is like a petri dish for the social sciences. As of 2020, there were more than 2.7 billion active monthly Facebook users. The number is expected to rise by the end of 2021. With an increase in the number of active users, the amount of data generated by each Facebook profile and page is also growing. It provides access to actual human behaviour expressed in a natural environment. You can use this platform to circumvent the limitations of laboratory-based studies and self-reports.
From your next-door neighbour to a complete stranger, Facebook gives you the opportunity to study anybody’s preferences and behaviour as long as she/he has a Facebook profile. Every like, comment, reaction and acceptance or rejection of friend requests on Facebook can help you know what’s going on in people’s mind. In short, Facebook is an excellent platform for conducting qualitative research. Here are the three significant lessons Facebook taught me about research. I am sure these lessons will come in handy to social scientists and academic researchers.
- The first step is to recruit the right participants
Gone are those days when the Facebook population had only younger and better-educated people. Now you will find essay help people of all ages on this platform. Getting hold of the right participants is the first step in conducting qualitative research on Facebook. One of the most effective ways to do so is snowball sampling.
What is snowball sampling?
Snowball sampling is a technique that lets your existing subjects provide referrals so that you can recruit the suitable samples required for the study. Employing this technique on Facebook means you need to convince existing Facebook users to recruit their connections or friends to join a study.
I, for example, wanted to understand the reasons why students (age 14-18 years) hire an essay typer. Instead of dipping into the vast pool of participants on Facebook, I decided to request the students with who I was already friends on this platform to convince their classmates to participate in my study. As my research went viral, it attracted over 600 students in two months, thereby helping me complete my research study.
Is there an alternative to this technique?
Well, snowball sampling is relatively cost-effective and efficient. However, you can try targeted advertising if snowball sampling isn’t helping you get hold of enough participants.
You can target users on the basis of specific criteria. For instance, let’s say you want to invite students within a particular age group. So, your Facebook ads should be designed to attract that specific set of audience only. You can also use other variables such as location, political views, language or ethnicity to target a more particular group of students for your research.
- Offer something enjoyable in exchange for self-reports on Facebook
This is the second lesson that I learnt while conducting qualitative research on Facebook. There wasn’t any guarantee that my target participants would read my message even after seeing it. I wasn’t a Facebook friend to many of the participants. Thus, my messages fell into the spam folder or were ignored. I tried to follow up with the participants but in vain. After several unsuccessful attempts, I decided to offer something in return to the participants if they agree to participate in the study. And that worked just fine! But, there are specific rules you must follow, such as:
- Your study shouldn’t consist of typical questions like where they are from or where their school was since you can collect these pieces of information quickly from Facebook profiles.
- Offer attractive incentives while designing a Facebook-based study. It is always better not to include financial incentives since that might persuade people to respond to your study unnaturally or dishonestly. You may get plenty of responses, but there’s no point if most of the responses are dishonest.
- Instead, try offering interesting feedback or an enjoyable experience that align with your participants’ interests.
- Also, you shouldn’t design the study completely based on your requirements. Consider the experience of your participants, too, while designing the study. For instance, you should always include an option that lets your participants skip the study if they want. You may not want them to skip. But, adding that option can make you seem considerate about your participants.
Remember that the ease of responding to your study is as easy as a breeze on Facebook. So, chances are some of your participants might respond to the study in a hurry. The participants may not feel as accountable as they should have in the offline mode due to the psychological distance between you and your participants.
- Too much socialising can ban you on Facebook
Let’s say you want to analyse how many students find it hard to figure out a topic for essays. So, you can promote your topic generator accordingly. But, the problem is, you can’t go on sending messages or questionnaires to random people without any boundaries. Doing so will ban you from contacting anyone on Facebook anymore. You may have to face a huge penalty for sending too many messages and the penalty may stay active for more than weeks. Thus, limit yourself to sending 20-25 messages per day only.
Facebook is probably the first thing all of us see after waking up in the morning. What are our friends up to? Did my classmates go clubbing last night? Facebook lets us stay connected to our loved ones even when we miles apart from them. Now, this platform can also help you study human behaviour based on plenty of variables such as demographics, gender, age, etc. Send out your questionnaire and encourage the participants to take the study. Good Luck.