Do You Recruit Respondents by Tracking Their Digital Fingerprint?

Do You Recruit Respondents by Tracking Their Digital FingerprintDo you recruit respondents by tracking their digital fingerprint? In this guest post market research consultant Sharon Archibald (Founder of Refresh Market Research) talks about a new way of collecting customised data via social media.

Market Research And Customised Quantitiative Data

The face of market research is changing and with it so are many of the approaches and methodologies.  Methods used to collect customised quantitative data have remained relatively stagnant over the past decades.  While traditional approaches are costly and time-consuming, often undertaken by large traditional market research companies, more affordable do-it-yourself or self-service methods lack rigor and impinge on the ability of market researchers to manipulate or perform more advanced statistical data analyses on the data.

The advent of the Internet and the popularity of social media have produced radical changes to the way in which quantitative data is collected. Online platforms now provide market researchers with the ability to collect high quality customized data to gain actionable insights quickly and affordably.  One new and innovative approach involves recruiting survey respondents while they interact or engage with their preferred social networking applications, e-commerce and/or gaming sites.  As incentive for participating in the survey, respondents are rewarded points redeemable for free merchandise or services.

Using Social Media To Offset ‘Survey Fraud’

With some online methodologies, it is difficult for researchers to ascertain the validity of respondents – it is hard to know if the person selected to complete the survey is the actual respondent or member of the target audience.  This is commonly referred to as “survey fraud” and involves respondents who complete surveys online for the sake of receiving an incentive rather than being motivated by an honest and legitimate desire to contribute to a body of knowledge.

To offset this flaw (a flaw that has the potential to distort or skew study results), this new methodology accounts for each study participant by requesting interested potential respondents to access the survey via their LinkedIn[1] or Facebook[2] account.  To ensure they meet the criteria for the study, this digital fingerprint allows researchers to verify demographic characteristics of each respondent against information contained in their Facebook or LinkedIn profile.  Digital fingerprinting technology improves data quality by accurately identifying and flagging suspect respondents.  As an added measure of quality, pre-screening questions are placed at the beginning of the survey to eliminate respondents who do not qualify or who are not members of the target audience.

Similar to other online survey methodologies, each survey respondent is assigned a unique respondent ID number.  To prevent survey duplication by the same respondent, a cookie is placed on the respondent’s computer as way of identifying their unique ID.  This cookie allows the researcher to collect an array of information about the respondent, including their IP address, browser version, survey start and completion date/time, and length of time to complete the survey.

Data deliverables include standard aggregate overview (summary of all closed-ended questions) and Excel dataset (individual data for each respondent including open-ended questions) or optional dashboard (one page comparison of results) and cross-tabs (statistical analyses of sub-groups).  Dashboard and cross-tabs are created in a visually attractive manner versus a stale presentation of static data.  Moreover, in some instances, a variety of advanced statistical techniques (exploratory data analysis) are performed on the data to identify relationships among and between particular data variables (i.e., regression analysis, correlation analysis, etc.).

Another distinctive feature of this methodology is how study data is presented. From the data collected an infographic is created, based on 10-15 key data points.  This infographic provides a visual representation of data and by presenting complex information or large datasets quickly, clearly and coherently.  It induces the viewer to focus on substance rather than methodology and it provides a simple but very powerful graphical interpretation of the data or the story the data is telling.  See below an example of an actual infographic created for use during an agency pitch.

Do you recruit respondents by tracking their digital fingerprint - candidates

Once produced, infographics or visual narratives can be used for a wide variety of purposes including press releases, internal/external communications, presentations, and for inclusion in a blog or as part of a social media campaign.

All tools in a market researcher’s toolbox are not equal.  Some are better suited to specific types of research than others.   This particular methodology works well when the project involves concept testing, awareness and perception, longitudinal tracking, and competitive landscape auditing.

In summation, technological advancements have challenged the status quo or the way customized quantitative data has traditionally been collected.  Traditional methodologies for collecting customized quantitative data are all too often considered too costly and too time consuming.  Conversely, cheaper methods such as self-service and do-it-yourself approaches fail the litmus test for accuracy and statistical reliability.  However, this unique methodology addresses the pressing need of many companies to conduct customized market research in a timely and cost efficient manner, without sacrificing data quality. It is a robust and exacting methodology that provides clients with standard data deliverables along with a stunning visualization or graphic depiction of the story the data is telling (infographic).

Have you adopted this approach as part of your market research practice? We would be interested to hear what you think of using social media in this way, and also what your clients think. Leave a comment below.

About the author: Sharon Archibald

Sharon ArchibaldSharon is an experienced market research consultant and qualitative research practitioner. Her market research skills have been developed over more than 20 years of employment in the research sector.

Her background includes experience in both quantitative and qualitative techniques and methodologies.

She has conducted research with consumers and employees in areas such as communications development and evaluation, attitude and image studies, brand development and equity, product development, consumer and employee opinion and attitude, client satisfaction, public policy development and program evaluation, to name a few.



[1]As of the third quarter of 2014, LinkedIn had 332 million members worldwide, up from 296 million members in the first quarter of the year.

[2] As of the third quarter of 2014, Facebook had 1.35 billion monthly active users worldwide.