Quantitative or Qualitative Perspectives?: Which one is best to have for social media research for public relations professionals?
Social media measurement is indeed a hot topic among the public relations community. Professionals and researchers are actively searching for ways to collect and observe what is occuring in the social media realm in terms of key messages, tweets, sharing information and visual communications (ex. videos and pictures) with others. But what is the best way to approach this task? Should public relations researchers focus on looking at just quantitative research methods in looking at social media? Or should we look more towards the social construction of the messages online and interview those that are actively on social media to create specific interactions (more qualitative research)?
Well, there are some professionals that advocate using the scientific method to their approach in looking at social media. This is indeed a good start – we as researchers need to observe what is happening in our environment and separate ourselves from what is going on and our own bias regarding social media. There are other quantitative tools for researchers to use to track and monitor social media effectively – but these usually come with a price, but there are some that are free. However, what we as public relations professionals need to do is to take a moment away from keyboard and our social media research platform – look at the level of engagement between individuals and listen. There are certain steps that you can actively take that can accomplish this and do effective social media research.
For social media research to evolve and help the public relations field, we need scholars and professionals who want to actively observe what is going on in the online community and be able to detect the relationships between specific variables (quantitative research) and having the open mind to look at the impact of the messages and meaning behind these online interactions (qualitative research). So basically, we need to have an integrated perspective towards research and looking at it from different perspectives in a systematic way.
Hope you all are having a great day.