How to use Twitter for Research?

While Facebook is about your friends, Twitter is about following people and topics you are interested in. That said, Twitter can also be used as a research tool.

As some of you know, I am a Lab Associate at Walt Disney Imagineering. My current project involves market research in Nicaragua. The big challenge is that all our team is in the US (Glendale, Seattle, Boston, etc.). The plan is to visit the country in the coming weeks. However, how do we stay in touch with Nicaragua while we are working in the US? How can we learn from what is going on in the country in the meanwhile?. I will use our case to exemplify how to use Twitter as a dynamic research tool.

This micro-blogging site has become the most popular platform for ‘citizen journalism’, as the latest Iran Election demonstrated. Twitter allows you to learn about a market from people in the market. Then, connecting to the markets you are studying through Twitter, is some sort of ‘digital ethnographic’ research approach.

If you a newbie to Twitter, please read first my brief post about the A-B-C of Twitter.

These are simple ways I have used Twitter for research:

  1. Pick the ‘hashtags’ (keywords) related to the focus of your study. In this case, I searched for the topic #Nicaragua. Once I searched the hashtag #Nicaragua, I added it to my Tweetdeck workspace. I also identified people and organizations using the #Nicaragua hashtag in their tweets and that provided information linked to my project.
  2. Then I started following these handles. For example, by searching #Nicaragua, I found @laprensanic (The most popular and respected newspaper in Nicaragua with more than 80 years in the market) and got in touch with @jknoregrets (Jamie keast, the Co-founder of Soul Sisters a non-profit working in Nicaragua). I tweeted to @jknoregrets and we should meet soon to talk more about our project.

Tools:

  1. TweetDeck: This is the most popular software (around 20% market share) to manage and organize your information on Twitter. It allows you to have columns by hashtag. This makes tracking a hashtag easier. You download this free software to your PC, Mac or smartphone and connect it to your Twitter account.
  2. Trendsmap: This is an online tool that allows you to visualize in a map the most tweeted words and hashtags use by geography.

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