Social Media Research: tools, techniques and outputs. (2023)

Social media research is the process of analyzing social media data to conduct quantitative (and at times qualitative) research in order to understand how audiences relate to topics, by using tools and data extraction techniques. Thanks to advanced social listening and audience intelligence tools and platforms, researchers today are able to aggregate data relating to specific events, topics or within a specific audience group from social media, web, forums, news and blogs.

It’s a topic that’s constantly evolving, with researchers developing new methodologies and techniques to understand the way audiences use social media channels, their behaviors and conversations on those channels. As social media grows in both size and importance, becoming an integral part of daily life, it is a vital new area to apply research tools to begin to understand this new forum for discussion.

Social media research can take the form of social listening and audience intelligence, by observing the content and information produced online and uncovering trends and insights that emerge from this data.

Table of contents:

  • What is the difference between social media research and other research?
  • How can social media research help your business?
  • Why do we need social media research?
  • Social media research tools

What is the difference between social media research and other research?

In short, social media research is a form of research using social media, as opposed to an alternative research methodology to qualitative or quantitative research. Research agencies such as Pulsar’s in-house research teamwork with the scale of quantitative research with the depth of quantitative research.

Social Media Research: tools, techniques and outputs. (1)

A cluster from a research report on ingredients of Vegan dishes on social media mapped out by our AI Image recognition module.

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Social media research topics allow us access to the unprompted feelings and opinions of users, something that quantitative researchers would generally have to collect through surveys or focus groups. This gives a huge scale of data available, in people’s own words, for researchers to analyze. This analysis requires expert knowledge of how people behave online but is similar in format to the research conducted by qualitative researchers of the results of a survey or focus group.

One developing area of social media research is trying to understand how machine learning and AI can speed up the collection of data. Currently, the datasets available to pull in in certain areas would take significant research resources to analyze, but by leveraging the power of machine learning and AI it is possible to train algorithms to organize data to make this analysis easier. There is significant work being done to help machines understand images, such as this collaboration between Pulsar and the Visual Social Media Lab.

How can social media research help your business?

Social media research can help your business in a number of ways: from understanding and improve the perception of your brand online; understanding the market for new products; comparing your presence to a competitor, or attracting new audiences through understanding the trends and discussions within your category.

A few areas include:

Marketing effectiveness

Truly understanding social media is a crucial part of marketing today, and it also a key resource for gaining insights for both the planning and execution of your campaigns, as millions of users, share information about their thoughts, opinions, needs, behaviors, and experiences every day. Independent, objective marketing Social media research offers an objective view of your marketing, showing where there are opportunities to increase reach and engagement. Continuous measurement through can help you to quantify your campaign performance and gain ROI.

Using social data for product development

Great campaigns are built on deep human truths. By conducting social media research you can dive into your customer’s world while developing a new product or service. Analyze behavioral signals from social media audiences to understand where your brand or product proposition fits in. And once you’ve developed a new product, you can use social media research to understand the mindsets, behaviors and affinities of your target audience to create marketing communications, visuals and experiences that click.

Attracting new customers and breaking into new demographics

You can also use social media research for audience intelligence, to understand your customers on a deeper level than just their demographics. Find out information about opinions, lifestyles, habits, and even interests to truly know what sort of people they are and be able to communicate with them in their own language. By understanding audiences, you can attract new customers who might not have even heard of your brand, or who you had never considered. Identify new opportunities within your market by keeping an eye on the conversation. Using social media research means you can continually monitor the conversation in your industry and find new ways to speak to your target audiences.

Improving customer service

Much customer service has recently moved into the public domains of social media and is a quick and easy go-to for people with questions and complaints about your brand. Understanding how people talk to and about your brand online mean you can anticipate this interaction, and even reach customers online who may have discussed your brand but were not speaking directly to you, which can go a long way in enhancing customer experience when done right.

Uncover micro-influencers that speak to your audience

Influencer marketing is a new, but already highly-saturated methodology. Attracting expensive macro-influencers for campaigns is a path well-trodden but using social media research you can uncover your brand’s biggest fans, and category-specific micro-influencers, who can advocate for your product or service. Researching and building panels of influencers mean you can build a relationship with relevant micro-influencers who are far more impactful within their community than larger influencers without as much of a niche.

Competitor intelligence and benchmarking

Monitoring the online presence of your brand is an ever-expanding task, let alone exploring activity around your competitors. Social media research can help you get a top-level view of how competitors in your industry or category approach certain topics and themes that are either pain or pride points for your brand, and find out if there is a better way to reach the audience you are trying to speak to, or how to ensure you continue to break away from the pack.

Brand reputation and crisis management

While brand monitoring is a great way to track your brand’s social media presence, in-depth social media research can help you to understand the audiences who follow and talk about your brand, and how the reputation you currently have online came about. This can be the starting point for developing a new communication strategy, or for altering your current one around the audience you have. By understanding your audiences through social media research you can also create strategies for crisis management, both for identifying a crisis brewing to act on as quickly as possible, and also preparing a response if the worst happens. Researching the impact of social media crises will help you be prepared.

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Why do we need social media research?

Social media has developed at a rapid pace, and it’s important to be analysing and understanding the ways humans are using it to communicate, not only for brands to be able to speak to their customers but for understanding communication and trends of behaviour as a whole. Academic research is starting to address and use social media, but this is a field that is still developing.

Specific business use cases for social media research are developing too. Brands and agencies are recognizing that generic analysis won’t solve distinctive business problems specific to the industry. At Pulsar we’ve developed custom analytics models within the social media research team using our audience intelligence platform that spans industries including film and TV, media, education, gaming, sports, non-profit, health, fashion and more. Our industry-specific frameworks created from research for social media can deliver contextualized, action-oriented insights to strategy teams.

Social Media Research: tools, techniques and outputs. (2)

An extract taken from a social data research on rise of CBD

Social media research tools

Ways to conduct social media research and web data research

There are several tools you can use to conduct your own social media research, including on the platforms themselves, or you can commission a survey from an expert research team. These break down into the ways you can collect social media data and other publically available web data that is important to compare to your social media research to get a full picture of all the digital signals around your brand. Platforms like Pulsar help you collect this data in one place to get a full picture of your topic.

Collecting social media data


Twitter Analytics is incredibly helpful for research on the impact your own or brand’s Twitter channels, where you can see the best and worst posts from any month, and download data on likes, replies, retweets and so on, as well as understanding the reach and impact of your ads on Twitter. Twitter also allows you to search on a detailed level for keywords over specific time periods and in specific locations which allows you to get a feel for the sentiment around a topic.


Facebook Analytics also offers detailed downloadable statistics on your owned Pages on its analytics tab. You can see details of reach and engagements on posts and videos on Facebook Pages, as well as demographics about the people who like your page. You can also research how people engage with public Facebook Pages, but it is difficult to aggregate this because of Facebook’s privacy restrictions.

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Currently, you can gain access to some tools provided by Facebook for Instagram analytics through Instagram Business Tools. The analytics offer a variety of insights on both posts on your Instagram timeline, and Instagram Stories, from viewership, reach and engagement to the days of the week your audience is most engaged and breakdown of locations by city, and age groups. It is possible to research the usage of hashtags which can be important but it is difficult to get more granular data on the images themselves without the use of a specialist tool like Pulsar, which offers vertical AI image analysis.


YouTube has a variety of metrics to study in the analytics area for creators including watch times for your videos, traffic sources to see where the viewers are finding your videos from, and Demographics reports. Other social media research available on YouTube includes looking at the YouTube Trending page and studying the view counts and comments on videos, but again this is hard to aggregate without a specialist tool. You can learn more on YouTube analytics by checking out YouTube Creators Academy.

Using web data for social media research


Finding out what people say on forums is a great way to understand social trends around specific topics. People will either discuss a specific topic in detail, or ask for advice, so if you can understand publicly posted forum topics, you will get an insight into the concerns around various topics and themes, which could support social media research. This involves manual desk research into your topic of choice, or the use of a tool like Pulsar, but can be very beneficial.


Understanding reviews data can be incredibly helpful for new product development. Finding out how well people rate a similar product will give you indications of what people are looking for. Similarly, because reviews often involve star ratings, you can correlate this data to get numerical averages over time. Using this data alongside comments from social media research and web data means you can get a full picture of the view of a product or service.

Blogs and news

It’s also important to keep track of what is being discussed in the news and blogs, as this may impact social media research – for instance if a dramatic headline in the news changes the track of a conversation on social media, or if a blog post is generating more shares of a specific link or part of your website. This research generally has to be compiled by the user but it is possible to look at news and blogs through tools like Google News, or Pulsar.

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Google trends

Google’s free trends service allows you to track volumes of searches for various trends going back to 2002 and compare several trends at once as a volume over time graph. You can also see that day’s trending topics, and find associated search queries that are often searched alongside your term. This is very helpful to compare with social media research around trends, as search and social data complement each other by giving an indication of the action taken – for instance did a social spike correlate to an increase in searches for a brand, or did a new product release get discussed on social as well as increasing traffic to your website?

Google surveys

Google surveys are a cheap way to get data back on a specified set of questions from real people. While the data itself does not come from social media, you are free to ask whatever you choose, including about users’ social media habits, and correlating this data with social data can be essential for social media research to understand the signals from multiple channels in context.

Pulsar and other social listening and audience intelligence tools

The easiest way to see the analytics from your social channels is to aggregate them into a tool like Pulsar CORE which allows you to compare all your channels in one place without having to switch between the various analytics platforms. You can also conduct social media research by comparing the data from competitor accounts, and understanding metrics like the demographics and psychographics of your followers. Pulsar TRAC is an advanced audience intelligence tool which goes beyond social listening to aid social media research and understand it in context of human behavior. You can research keywords, audiences or content and understand how people talk about the topics you’re looking to understand on social media, news, forums, blogs, and web search, as well as the most advanced image analysis, powered by vertical AI and machine learning to segment data around topics, image contents and audiences, and present it with beautiful simple to understand data visualisation.

How to get insights from social media research

Once you have all your data, whether collected from social media analytics, or manual desk research, you can compare trends of mentions of a keyword over time, and understand this in more detail by correlating against forums, reviews and news, or analyse how certain audiences talk about your brand or product by looking at the posts themselves.

Research agencies

Many research agencies are now offering social media research alongside traditional qualitative and quantitative research. Whether it’s used for marketing effectiveness, new product development, audience discovery or brand and product strategy, social media research can deliver industry-specific insights that will help your business. Pulsar’s research team offer both continuous or one-off research programs which integrate quantitative and qualitative methodologies, to turn audience data and social media trends into strategic insights.

The importance of social media in marketing research has never been more pronounced, and the means of arriving at insight never more sophisticated.

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How can social media be used as a research tool? ›

Social media research topics allow us access to the unprompted feelings and opinions of users, something that quantitative researchers would generally have to collect through surveys or focus groups. This gives a huge scale of data available, in people's own words, for researchers to analyze.

What do you understand by tools and techniques of research? ›

Tools and techniques in research are the statistical methods of collection, analysis, interpretation, presentation, and organization of data. Statistics provides numerous tools and techniques to analyze the data and interpret the results of the analysis.

What is an example of a social media tools? ›


Hootsuite allows you to manage multiple social content streams from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. It is one of the most famous social media tools in the market.

How important is social media nowadays? ›

In today's society, the use of social media has become a necessary daily activity. Social media is typically used for social interaction and access to news and information, and decision making. It is a valuable communication tool with others locally and worldwide, as well as to share, create, and spread information.

Why is social media important to study? ›

With the help of social media, students can get information, can fetch or retrieve information easily, and can communicate with their teachers, friends, and classmates easily. Students can get connected with their teachers or professors easily and can gain knowledge and information very easily through its help.

What are the best practices for social media marketing tools? ›

15 tips for an effective social media marketing strategy
  • Define your audience. ...
  • Don't use every existing platform. ...
  • Claim your handles and usernames before they're gone. ...
  • Find your voice and set your tone. ...
  • Use software tools to keep a calendar and daily schedule. ...
  • Build your following. ...
  • Post high-quality, varied content.
10 May 2021

What is social media used for? ›

Social media platforms allow users to have conversations, share information and create web content. There are many forms of social media, including blogs, micro-blogs, wikis, social networking sites, photo-sharing sites, instant messaging, video-sharing sites, podcasts, widgets, virtual worlds, and more.

What are benefits of social media? ›

Here are five benefits of using social media:
  • Build relationships. Social media is not just about brands connecting with their customers. ...
  • Share your expertise. Social media gives you an opportunity to talk about what you know and what you want to be known for. ...
  • Increase your visibility. ...
  • Educate yourself. ...
  • Connect anytime.
22 Apr 2014

What is the importance of tools in research? ›

It is important to decide the tools for data collection because research is carried out in different ways and for different purposes. The objective behind data collection is to capture quality evidence that allows analysis to lead to the formulation of convincing and credible answers to the posed questions.

What are the tools and techniques? ›

A tool is a specific, tangible item such as a template or software program, used in performing an activity to produce a product or result. A technique is a defined systematic procedure to produce one or more outputs, which may also use one or more tools.

What are the characteristics of a good research tool? ›

There are mainly three characteristics of a good research tool. These include validity, reliability, and usability. In selecting tools for collecting data a researcher should evaluate them in terms of these characteristics.

Which is the most used tool of social media? ›

Buffer is one of the most popular social media scheduling platforms. This software helps drive engagement and traffic on social media with the help of their scheduling, engagement, and analytics tools. Buffer is one of the most popular social media scheduling platforms.

Why social media tools are important? ›

Social media management tools help you keep your content organized, schedule posts, interact with accounts and track conversations around your brand. The more platforms you have, the more necessary the tools are for your company.

What is the role of social media in your life and the world? ›

It has made its importance in our lives in a very short period. It has become necessary daily activity for people. Social media enables its users to stay in contact by making communication easier. Sharing pictures, videos, expressing thoughts, ideas, and documents are just one click away.

How social media affects our lives? ›

However, multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. Social media may promote negative experiences such as: Inadequacy about your life or appearance.

How does social media improve our society? ›

The truth is that social media can also be beneficial for society. It can help individuals connect and deepen their relationships. Social media also encourages students to learn and grow. And it can empower businesses to build their audiences and boost their bottom line.

What is the impact of social media on students academic performance? ›

Reduced academic performance is one of the most important consequences of social networking overuse for students. The results of a study on medical students showed that students who used social networks and internet more than average had a poor academic achievement and low level of concentration in the classroom [36].

How do social media change the everyday life of a student? ›

It is easy to become addicted, and research shows that students who spend too much time on social media can suffer from poor sleep, eye fatigue, negative body image, depression, anxiety, cyberbullying, and more.

How social media can influence students learning? ›

Social media also fosters long-term retention of information. A deeper understanding is developed when social media extends the classroom discussions and work. Using social media in the learning process will allow students to develop and share newly developed ideas, symbols, and ways of knowing.

How can I improve my social media skills? ›

4 Ways To Improve Your Social Media Skills
  1. Get on multiple platforms. It's always better to diversify than to put all your eggs in one basket. ...
  2. Use it. Just being on the platforms isn't enough to become a social media expert. ...
  3. Offer something in your posts. ...
  4. Interact with others.

What are the benefits of social media marketing for my company? ›

With consistent updating, the right social media marketing strategy will lead to increased traffic, better SEO, higher conversion rates, improved brand loyalty, and much more. There are virtually no reasons not to implement social media into your marketing strategy.

Is social media the best marketing tool? ›

One of the main reasons social media marketing is so effective is that brands can hyper-target ideal clients based on exact demographics. Showing ads to the right individuals is a critical part of the marketing process and must be taken seriously to avoid wasted ad spend.

Does social media improve communication? ›

Social media is revolutionizing communication because it brings a new level of efficiency to influencing social change. Social media campaigns led by individuals, nonprofits, NGOs, government, or businesses can illuminate social issues, environmental concerns, and positive philanthropic deeds.

Is social media helpful or harmful? ›

Although there are important benefits, social media can also provide platforms for bullying and exclusion, unrealistic expectations about body image and sources of popularity, normalization of risk-taking behaviors, and can be detrimental to mental health.

Why is social media communication important? ›

The importance of social media in communication is a constant topic of discussion. Online communication has brought information to people and audiences that previously could not be reached. It has increased awareness among people about what is happening in other parts of the world.

How important is social media marketing? ›

68% of consumers agree that social media enables them to interact with brands and companies. While traditional marketing and advertising methods are one-way media, where brands rely on their monologue to win over a consumer, social media empowers dialogue and gives consumers unique opportunities to engage.

What is the difference between tools and techniques in research? ›

A tool is a device or computer app that enables you do do something. For example, a microscope or a modeling program. A technique is a process or procedure that you follow. For example there are guidelines for how to construct an effective scientific experiment such as you make sure the participants are unbiased.

What are the techniques of data collection? ›

Data collection techniques include interviews, observations (direct and participant), questionnaires, and relevant documents (Yin, 2014). For detailed discussions of questionnaires, interviews and observation, see Chapter 16: Questionnaires, individual interviews, and focus group interviews and Chapter 17: Observation.

Which is one of the main functions of a research tool? ›

Answer: A research instrument is a tool used to obtain, measure, and analyze data from subjects around the research topic. You need to decide the instrument to use based on the type of study you are conducting: quantitative, qualitative, or mixed-method.

What is technique with example? ›

1 : the way in which basic physical movements or skills are used The players practiced basic techniques. 2 : the ability to use basic physical movements and skills The pianist is admired for her technique. 3 : a way of doing something using special knowledge or skill Here's a good technique to help you relax.

What are the tools and techniques for assessment of skills? ›

These are planning, validity, reliability, objectivity, discriminating power, adequacy, practicality, comparability and utility. All of these qualities are criteria that must be given serious thought when a teacher selects a measuring instrument. Any good measuring too should possess certain characteristics.

How do you measure quality in research? ›

2 HOW TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF THE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY? Four criteria are widely used to appraise the trustworthiness of qualitative research: credibility, dependability, confirmability and transferability.

How do you conduct a good research? ›

Research Process Overview
  1. Develop a topic. Select a Topic | Develop Research Questions | Identify Keywords | Find Background Information | Refine a Topic.
  2. Locate information. ...
  3. Evaluate and analyze information. ...
  4. Write, organize, and communicate information. ...
  5. Cite sources.
19 May 2022

Which one of the following is a research tool? ›

Questionnaire is a research tool.

How social media may be used to gather data? ›

Data Collection: So How Exactly Does This Work:

Media platforms allow for users to create media accounts where they can provide behavioral, preference, and demographic data about themselves. This data can be collected from the things you post, like, accept or search about through your devices.

How do media improve students conducting research? ›

You can get real-time results of your findings

The fact that your connections are all on the Internet means that you get to use data which is constantly updated. This also ensures that you get real-time results for your research which is always something that most researchers appreciate.

What is social media according to researchers? ›

The term social media refers to a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through virtual networks and communities. Social media is internet-based and gives users quick electronic communication of content, such as personal information, documents, videos, and photos.

Why is media research important? ›

Research brings objectivity and accuracy in news reporting. A good story is always the outcome of research and investigation. Media Research is also used in conducting surveys, public opinion polls, advertising and public relation campaigns.

What type of data can be collected from social media? ›

Here is some of the most important raw data you can collect through social media:
  • Engagement: Clicks, comments, shares, etc.
  • Reach.
  • Impressions and video views.
  • Follower count and growth over time.
  • Profile visits.
  • Brand sentiment.
  • Social share of voice.
  • Demographic data: age, gender, location, language, behaviors, etc.
24 Jan 2022

What kind of data is collected from social media? ›

Social media data encompasses a broad range of online information including photos, purchase history, active hours on social media, engagement rate with certain types of content, and so much more.

What are benefits of social media? ›

Here are five benefits of using social media:
  • Build relationships. Social media is not just about brands connecting with their customers. ...
  • Share your expertise. Social media gives you an opportunity to talk about what you know and what you want to be known for. ...
  • Increase your visibility. ...
  • Educate yourself. ...
  • Connect anytime.
22 Apr 2014

How can social media be used to benefit students like you? ›

Social media promotes self-directed learning, which prepares students to search for answers and make decisions independently. When reinforced in a classroom setting, these social media skills can be guided and refined to produce better learning outcomes and critical awareness.

How can students use social media effectively? ›

9 Ways Real Students Use Social Media for Good
  1. Sharing tools and resources. ...
  2. Gathering survey data. ...
  3. Collaborating with peers. ...
  4. Participating in group work. ...
  5. Communicating with teachers. ...
  6. Researching careers. ...
  7. Meeting with mentors and experts. ...
  8. Showcasing student work.
19 Jul 2022

What is the impacts of social media? ›

However, social media use can also negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure. The risks might be related to how much social media teens use.

Which social media do students use? ›

The most popular platform was Facebook, with 95.8% of students active on the platform. YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn were next in popularity, with usage rates of 77%, 71.3% and 69% respectively.

Is social media helpful or harmful? ›

Although there are important benefits, social media can also provide platforms for bullying and exclusion, unrealistic expectations about body image and sources of popularity, normalization of risk-taking behaviors, and can be detrimental to mental health.

What are the important sources of media research? ›

An introduction to core research resources for media and communication.
  • Encyclopedias and Background Information.
  • Finding Books and E-books.
  • Finding Articles.
  • Primary Sources. Newspapers. Magazines, Trade publications, and Print Advertisements. ...
  • Research Methods.
  • Course-Specific Guides. Methods in Media Studies (MiMS)
21 Sept 2022

What is media research methods? ›

Media research methods are the practical procedures for carrying out a research project. These methods include content analysis, surveys, focus groups, experiments, and participant observation. Research methods generally involve either test subjects or analysis of media.

What is the primary objective of media research? ›

According to the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) the goal of media relations is, “to establish and maintain solid and ethical relationships with media for accurate, balanced, timely information release.”


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