Advantages of qualitative research using social media

Have you ever joined a focus group? How did you feel when knowing you were observed by a group of hidden people (behind the mirror) and were “controlled” by a moderator?

I have a friend, who joined many focus groups and she told me she did it just because of the rewards. She sometimes did not answer the truth about what she was thinking because of her discomfort feeling of doing so. The fact that, besides significant advantages of a traditional focus group, this method takes time of respondents because they have to travel to a technical room and join a conversation under the instruction of a moderator. That may make interviewers uncomfortable. So in some cases, they were not willing to answer questions honestly.

Fortunately, social media research offers marketers an advanced way to conduct market researches by following communications trends in society.

Firstly, it allows brands to gather insights about their different customers such as lifestyle, purchase behaviour,  and demographics broadly.  Furthermore, social users can actively and comfortably share their opinions by commenting, sharing, liking, etc. on a post without worrying about being controlled. They do not need to “show” their face by using any avatars when joining a social life. Hence, their opinions are more genuine than the traditional focus group. They will be a valuable source for markers to understand the behaviours and attitudes of customers deeply. Respondences also do not need to spend the time for traveling to any locations in the settled time. They can share their ideas anywhere, any time they like.


Brand Lay’s potato chips has just launched a contest on a Facebook asking U.S fans to help create a flavor for its next chips which will be launched next year to celebrate the 75th anniversary. This contest is a huge opportunity for the brand to gain insight from customers about what kind of chip flavors they love. Gaining insight in this way is efficient and effective. It can do cross countries. The fact that, Lays brand organized the contest in 14 different countries and collected more than eight million opinions about chip flavor.


Courtesy: Lay’s potato chips

Secondly, social media allows collecting data with a sample size bigger than any focus groups. Marketers can get feedback straightforwardly from customers with a few clicks. Hence, information is always fresh and up to date. While with a focus group, marketers have to spend considerable finance and time (maybe a week, a month or even a year) to collect information. And when the report is done to use, it may become old already.

Another benefit of social media is to make direct connections between brands and consumers. For assistance, businesses can send products to consumers and then ask them to share their opinion on their social channels. By analyzing their feedback on social media, marketers can gain insights from customers to prepare for the better performance.

In conclusion, social media has created innovate opportunities (and challenges) for businesses. It is bringing businesses a great chance to collect information and to connect with audiences in the way that traditional focus group cannot. Marketers should optimize this method to gain genuine insight before making strategic decisions to reduce risk and increase return on investment for businesses.



5 Ways Social Media Takes Customer Relationships To The Next Level. (2012). Retrieved from

Shadpour, D. (2018). How Social Media Can Serve As The New Focus Group For Your Brand. Retrieved from

Photo courtesy of Lay’s Facebook page





16 thoughts on “Advantages of qualitative research using social media

  1. Social media has a huge advantage to get customers comments compare to the focus group. However, we never know exactly what they think about a brand until we can see their habits of purchasing and using the products. We do need a lot of marketing research methods to figure it out what is the customer insight.


    1. Hi Sam! Thanks for your valuable comment. Of course, each method has pros and cons. Therefore, depending on the circumstances of businesses as well as the brand, marketers need to choose the best way to gather insight from customers.


  2. Hi littledolphin,

    Really enjoying reading your writing.

    Qualitative research is a more person-centered approach commonly used in the social sciences and humanities.
    What do you think how to handle the qualitative research bias?

    Many thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such an interesting question! Not like quantitative research with numerical data, qualitative research is used to gather insights from customers under their opinions, attitude, behaviors, motivations about products, marketing campaigns, market trends, etc. Therefore, when analyzing the qualitative research, it is hard to separate your thinking from the data (or it is called bias). To avoid it, some tips can be considered such as Have more participants to review your result, Using more people to code the data or Reviewing your findings with peers. These tips can reduce bias in the research.


  3. Hi,
    What a lovely and knowledgeable read. You spoke about focus groups and gave great details, even from your own experience. I have to agree that focus groups are a great way to get knowledge and understand more about the customer needs so that the brand can expand further. In terms of market research it is a very important qualitative research for the brand.
    And I didn’t know that Lays came out with these flavours, very interesting.
    Have you ever been a part of any focus group? Do you think social media marketing and focus groups can also be interlinked?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Thank you so much for your comment.
      Yes, I have joined a focus group twice in different roles. One as an interviewer for a Kellogg’s new flavour project. Another one as a client: the company I worked for hired a research agency to do a focus group and I was one of “the hidden people” who sat behind the mirror to monitor the meeting (Thanks the Company for giving me the chance even I was just an internship).
      The experience has given me the idea of the pros and cons of a focus group. In my opinion, focus groups give a great chance to drill down data because this method allows moderators to ask interviewers directly to get in-depth feedback. With social media, it is hard to do so. Many businesses when doing market research, they often use both methods to support/ complement for each other. Therefore, I think the focus group and social media can be interlinked.


  4. Hi Littledolphin,
    Thank you for sharing this with us!
    You have mentioned that many brands use social media as a tool to get idead from their customers. I definitely love your example about Lays potato. However, I think about the chances that Lays’s competitors could steal that idea for their future products. How do you think about this problem?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi May!

      Thanks for your comment and asking me such an interesting question!
      Yes, information on Lay’s Facebook page can be stolen by competitors because it is public. It can consider as a disadvantage of using social media as a qualitative research tool. However, in my opinion, it is not a big deal because insight from customers is collected not only from this Facebook page but also from other channels such as retailers, internal sale data, salesmen, etc. (those sources are not public for competitors). Lay’s will gather all information from the different sources and analyze them carefully before deciding which flavor will be launched. I think this is the way not only Lay’s but also other businesses are doing today.


  5. Very useful and interesting information! Your example reminds me of Boost and their campaign on Instagram for the audience to choose the new Boost flavor, and they did actually come up with the most Aussie drink possible: Vegemite boost. There are loves and hates, but having people commenting and being active on social media channel can provide company with very insightful data. However, I do have one question regarding to your post: do you think companies should only focus on their social media marketing research, or should they also maintain their research with focus groups?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Linh,
      Thank you so much for your interesting sharing. Social networks are useful for businesses to collect insight from customers. However, with the focus group, you can easily drill down data because this method allows moderator asks interviewers directly. While with social media, it is really hard to get in-depth feedback like that. Therefore, we should not only focus on one method. Depending on situations, such as the financial condition of your business, the importance of information you need to collect, you will decide which research method you should use (focus group, social media or even combine both) to help your business reduce risk and increase return on investment.


  6. Hi littledolphin,
    Your article can clearly see the advantages of the new approach, instead of using the traditional focus group method, which will take time and sometimes not be very effective. By using comments through media social, marketers can collect as much information as well as authentic information. Myself has never been as a person in a focus group, but I can imagine social media is now working as the fastest way for the marketer promote a specific product.
    Thanks for your new ideas about the way to collect opinions of customers about the product.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Little Dolphin,
    Liked your blog about focus group and example about Lays. I still feel that focus group is a very important tool in market research. Moderators are usually highly skilled in handling situations like you mentioned above. They know how to read body-language cues and would have most likely understood that your friend wasn’t completely honest when she was sharing her opinions and would have probably traced the reasons for it too. They take these things into account. As much as opinions of people are valued in the focus group, non-verbal cues are also equally important. Their reaction, strength of their reaction, discomfort, the intensity of discussions, etc. all also a critical element which unfortunately cannot be replicated in social media participation of research.


    1. Thank you for your valuable comment. I totally agree with you that the focus group has the advantages as you have mentioned above. Furthermore, it helps drill down feedback (in-depth feedback) which social media cannot do. Therefore, businesses today often combine two methods when doing marketing researches. These methods complement each other to help businesses gain deep and genuine insights from their customers.


  8. Really interesting blogpost here and a great example of Lays asking people to curate their own flavours, I remember trying out all the different flavours back in the day. I feel social media does allow respondents to put forward their opinion without any pressure but whether the respondents have experience/knowledge in that particular area we can never find out. Whereas in the case of focus groups, we know for a fact that the respondents which are being called in for research purposes have years of experience and knowledge in the same, thus reducing the chances of information being wrong thus as a business, even though focus groups are more expensive I would opt for a few sessions to gain insights from these buyers who have been regulars and known the industry on a personal level.


    1. Thank you for your great contribution. I agree with you that the focus group has many advantages such as the quality of interviewers (as you mentioned) or the level of information which is higher than social media. That is why even focus group is expensive and takes time but it still exits. The best case is to combine two methods when doing market research to double check information because they can support/ complement each other. So the information collected will be more accurate and up-to-date.


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