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How to do market research in 2021 using social media

July 20, 2021

Established formats of market research such as phone or online panels are becoming more challenging in terms of participants and biases. Meanwhile, the quick and fun use of social media friends and crowdsourced communities has gotten traction but does have its weaknesses in terms of representing audiences correctly. The online platform Boomerang Ideas has developed a novel method for overcoming these hurdles to deliver fast and accurate feedback.

With increasing pressure to innovate and improve customer experience, making the right decisions by knowing your customers or target markets has become more critical than ever. And at the same time, it has never been more challenging to get reliable, fast, and affordable data.

So, what are your options in 2021? If you have the funds, you can go for traditional research channels such as phone or online panels that stand for traditional quality, or you can use your social media network or crowdsourced communities with their quick and free feedback.

Standard methods are on thin ice

The status-quo channels that we mentioned above, however, have their cost. And it’s not just the high effort or price. Many people don’t have landline phones or don’t like participating in surveys on their cell phones—so you can only reach a limited audience, which ultimately does not reflect what you are looking for. And while online panels are conveniently automated, they are also based on a community with a strong selection bias (only certain people join panels) and wrong incentives (monetized).

Social media—the savior?

Thank God there is social media, which has the quantitative numbers (your friends and network) and therefore can be a great way to get feedback on your A/B-test, temperature check or societal question. After all, for what other reason do we have our 500 friends on Facebook and as many business contacts on LinkedIn?

Unfortunately, as valuable as their feedback is, they can lead you down the wrong path. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still better to get feedback from your friends than no feedback at all. The problem is, you’re most likely asking within your sociographic bubble.

And even if you don’t, it might still be inaccurate. Let’s say, Nike asks their 33M Facebook page followers, what color or shape they should give the next special edition shoe. Great idea, right? Wrong. They’re asking their fans (who will love anything from their beloved brand) and not the average runner (who wants a problem solved).

Use crowdsourcing to get outside of your bubble?

I love Quora and similar forums with their cool discussions and upvotes, and I do believe these communities deliver a lot of value.

Nevertheless, we have to realize that individual forums are rather homogeneous communities that will give you good feedback, but again, might not have enough of the attributes of your target market.

Crowdsourcing and crowd intelligence with sourcing from the Internet or social media channels are an integral part of many of today’s most successful apps, such as Google Maps or TripAdvisor. It has always been a dream of mine to be able to access these large and diverse crowds and use them for something valuable with a similar structured approach. And heck, why not for surveys and opinion research on a professional level? That’s why we started project Boomerang Ideas, to see where working with crowd intelligence on social media would take us.

Targeted crowd intelligence on social media

Two years and quite some iterations later, we’ve built a self-service platform that allows access to any kind of audience outside of your social media bubble at a granularity level close to professional channels.

We were able to integrate the gold-standard methodology for surveys (stratified sampling) that breaks down your audience into a multitude of clusters (up to 294), each with individual characteristics, such as age, gender, language, and geography, to reflect all of the sociodemographic attributes your sample needs to be as accurate as possible. In combination with direct interfaces with global social media channels and microtargeting (known from online ads*[1]), we can post and analyze surveys to any of these clusters. Everything you need for professional surveys—and all on social media! Pretty cool, huh?

So, what’s the incentive for users to participate? Well, most people have no problem giving their opinion if they’re asked—it just needs to be at the right time and place. And in our case, it’s on their favorite social media channel, and for many, surveys are a fun distraction from cat videos and family photos. In addition, we hook them with a preview of the results (after the vote) as people love to see how they compare to others.

With our structured and professional access to social media, we’ve opened the door to a novel channel previously neglected by consumer and opinion research. This is the right step into the next generation of market research.

Of course, people outside of social media are not reflected in these samples, and therefore our novel methodology is just another approximation to get you as close as possible to the opinion of your desired audience. But in today’s world, there’s still no full data view—and yet, the growth on social media channels is more and more reflective of the broader society. In 2021, it is clearly a solid and serious challenger to established channels.

We have many things planned for the near future. Keep in your bookmarks to have it handy when you need your next survey, follow us on our LinkedIn page for updates, and help us spread the word. Let’s throw that Boomerang!

Raphael Ueberwasser
Founder of Boomerang Ideas & DAY8 Innovation Advisory
Originally published at

[1] Microtargeting has been known to be very accurate but unfortunately has had its fair share of negative press. We are using the power of microtargeting without the goal of influencing microtargeted crowds but of putting that power to good use and into the hands of everyone.

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