Social media has emerged as a powerful force for social good. The power of social listening, specifically, to positively impact business, government, and social policy is clear. This is creating a paradigm shift in business methods. To combat potential misuse of the data available from social media, we have to ensure that these new business methods are underpinned by ethical approaches meeting the new demands of the marketplace.
As a member of a strong subcommittee that included a diversity of thoughtful perspectives, we were actively involved in the drafting of CASRO’s guidelines for social media research. In addition, we submitted feedback to ESOMAR for their corresponding initiative. We’re pleased the guidelines enable the use of social media data for research purposes while also meeting what we think are two core requirements:
- The ability for businesses to collect data required to meet the new generation of services and consumer expectations for brand engagement in venues where public conversation is occurring. For example, a consumer may post about a product or service issue on Twitter, addressing a brand directly. There is a clear expectation that a brand’s customer service function is listening and ready to respond.
- Privacy and data protection for consumers in those venues where it is expected. Consumers simply don’t expect their interactions on some social media sites to be used for business purposes.
German courts have recently ruled that when individuals publish personal data within public social media, this automatically includes an agreement for use by other media, such as search engines (Higher Regional Court of Cologne, judgment of February 9th, 2010, Reference number 15 U 107/09). On the other hand, there are private venues where participation does not result in de facto permission to use data.
The key here is to establish guidelines for the use of social media data that are perfectly aligned to the consumer’s expectation of how this data will be used. The CASRO and ESOMAR publications – the former still in draft format, please comment here – aim to meet this requirement by defining different types of social media venue and making suggestions as to how data should be used differently (if at all) according to which type of venue it comes from.
The CASRO and ESOMAR guidelines represent a big step for our industry and we’re pleased to have had input.
For information on how Converseon can help your company conduct social media research respecting these guidelines, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.