In a recent Tweet Jim Longo (http://www.twitter.com/LongoMR, the ebullient head of Itracks) asked if anybody could point him towards an article or blog post looking at the difference between social media monitoring and social media research. I could not think of one immediately, so I decided to jot down my thoughts.
Social Media Monitoring
To me this term relates largely to the process we call listening (even though we use our eyes we seem to prefer the metaphor of listening). It can mean simply reading interesting material, perhaps organised via a tool such as TweetDeck or via an RSS feed and reader, but more often refers to using tools such as specialist search and analysis software (e.g. Radian6). In terms of methodology this would fit the complete observer approach.
Social Media Research
By contrast to monitoring, social media research is a generic catchall that embraces social media monitoring, netnography (as defined by Robert Kozinets, i.e. requiring participation in communities, talking with people), MROCs, blog research (in the style of Revelation), creating discussions in existing social media (for example in Facebook), and potentially using the idea of bots to interrogate social media users in the way being floated at this year’s MRS conference.
I would expect the number of social media research techniques to expand rapidly, with more monitoring tools being created, more forms of creating social engagement being developed, and possibly the development of crowdsourced solutions.