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This content is taken from the Purdue University's online course, Digital Media Analytics: Social Media Research Plans. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds The year was 1975. Pepsi, a soft drink underdog looking for an edge over its long time rival Coke, launched the first in a series of ads. Called the Pepsi Challenge, in which real people took a blind taste test that pitted the two sodas against each other. This was the opening salvo in what became known as the cola wars. Which were so intense that Billy Joel referenced them along side actual wars. In the 1989 American pop classic, We Didn’t Start the Fire. Business and marketing have changed a lot since the height of the cola wars. But one thing that remains the same is the need for organizations to conduct research on their customers.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds This research can help organisations make better business decisions by understanding who their consumers are and what they want. And if an organisation understands their consumers better than their rivals do. It can go a long way in winning the battle for market share, for example, imagine your company has an idea for a new product. Before beginning the production process. It would be prudent to conduct some market research to see how the product would be received. Or your organisation wants to expand to serve a new demographic. It would be helpful to conduct some research to find out more about the target audience.

Skip to 1 minute and 34 seconds One way to get this information is by using social media analytics, it’s like farming, as in farming to table farming. It requires self-reliance, hard work, careful planning, and good skills. You need to measure the field to choose the right tools to harvest and clean the crop. Afterward, you need to carry, store and prepare the final product. This course will help you understand some basic social media harvesting and cooking skills. Specifically we’ll teach you how to generate the research plan. How to develop hypotheses, how to collect and analyse data that will answer your organisations’ questions. And finally, how to present your results effectively.

Skip to 2 minutes and 16 seconds Social media didn’t exist in 1975, of course, but as we’ll see in our examples, the cola wars continue to rage on. Only now on the battlefields of Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.

Building a research plan to analyse social media behavior

Let’s say you’ve decided to deploy a social media analytics research project. Where do you start?

In this course, you’ll learn how to transform word-based questions into numbers. You’ll advance from hunches to testable propositions, then to concepts, and finally to variables. It all comes together as a relationship between two sets of numeric values, each measuring specific features of the things or phenomena you want to analyse (e.g., propensity to buy, buyer anxiety, sentiment response, risk-prone behavior, etc.)

The objective here is to focus how you think about social and digital media analytics around questions and insights. Whether through formal research for organisations or through spontaneous questions from management and other departments, you may be asked to use social and digital media data to answer questions and report actionable insights.

Conducting research using social media analytics will only help your organisation if you have a clear idea of why you are collecting data, how you plan to collect it, and what you plan to do with it. Therefore, the first week of this course will focus on what to do before you begin collecting your data. Specifically, you’ll read about developing a research plan and the five steps of the research process. You’ll also learn and discuss how to write research reports and present results effectively. After all, research is only valuable if people see the results.

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  • Have you created or were you on a team that developed a research plan? Tell us about it. What did you learn?

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This video is from the free online course:

Digital Media Analytics: Social Media Research Plans

Purdue University