The Downside of Internet Surveys

With our emerging world of technology we are constantly inundated with ideas and opinions. There has been a paradigm shift in the way we seek information of any kind.  Whether we are searching for a restaurant menu or having a political debate with our peers, we immediately go to the browser on our smart phones to find answers.  While I am a “Gen-Xer” and am tech-savvy, I often quip that I didn’t “Google” my way through college;  At that time (in the late 1990's) we still went to the library for research (you know, that building with all the books). 

As marketers, we know how and why we search for data, but are our methods effective?

The Internet is a wondrous place full of amazing things.  We can find information on just about anything.  The article I found is called Benefits and Drawbacks of the Internet as a Research Source (Ko, n.d.) and it gives all sorts of positive ways we use the Internet including finding newspaper articles (particularly ones from outside our home region),  access to government documents (both domestic and foreign), and connection to databases.  I found it interesting that the author also mentions access to non-mainstream views and sometimes even arcane facts. 

What about the potential pitfalls?

With so much information, it is sometimes difficult to disseminate. Even in preparation for this post, there were hundreds of articles from which to choose.  Searchability is both an attribute and a hindrance because there is so much information on the Internet that our searches only reveal a small percentage of what is actually available.  This article continues on to mention that the lack of context (search may only reveal a partial document or web page), lack of permanence (instability of web pages), and selectivity of coverage as detriments to effectively conducting research.

A thought-provoking viewpoint of this article was that some web sites only allow access if a person registers or creates a profile.  With commercial fee-based databases such as LexisNexis and other register-for-access sites (such as newspapers or trade journals), the information that researchers may be seeking could be hidden or simply off limits.

One thing the article did not mention was user-generated content.  How does this effect and affect marketing and research?  I contend that user-generated and interactive media are disadvantageous and beneficial.  The downside to interactivity is that one user could create multiple profiles autonomously, thereby skewing data about demographics and psychographics. This is also mentioned in our readings this week.  This can make our findings difficult to qualify and impossible to use effectively.   On the other hand, if some people have the ability to distort results by providing potentially false information, then others have the potential to be a tremendous asset.  With the Internet, we have access to industry experts, field experts, and provocative pundits that can enhance our knowledge base and help to provide accurate research results.

The Internet is an extraordinary phenomenon that has changed everything about our daily lives including the way we shop, eat, work, direct business, and the way we conduct research.  If we can approach Internet research with an open mind and understand the limitations and challenges, we can conduct an effectual campaign.  As with any research, we have to start with a goal and a budget. The most effective medium for execution of the research really depends on the subject matter and what we are attempting to accomplish.

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