By now we all know that social media has changed the world.   It’s connected to friends and family across the globe, and helped us to make new friends.  It’s given all of us a voice – so we can interact with our favorite brands, products, even celebs.  And last, but not least, it spawned “the selfie”.

selfieThe Smartphones of today make it extremely easy to take quick pics and videos of ourselves, and post them to our social media feeds to let everyone know what we’re up to at any time.  It’s simple enough that anyone at any age can do it.  Just whip out your Smartphone, snap a pic, and post – it takes less than a minute!

Some may think that the selfie is helping to create an increasingly narcissistic society, or is spawning an era of “oversharing,” where there’s no such thing as TMI, and posting your most intimate moments for all to see is totally acceptable.

But to me, the selfie is a researcher’s dream.

Personally, I do think the selfie is breeding a complete lack of inhibition about posting even the smallest, most private detail about yourself.  However, from a researcher’s point of view, this is exactly what I want!  When conducting a qualitative study, my goal is always to learn as much about my participants’ behaviors and underlying habits/needs as possible.  The more I can see into their lives, the more I learn about them.  The best participants are those who record their responses as videos and share them with me, explaining in detail their thoughts about the subject.  I not only get their words, but I’m able to watch their expressions and read their body language.  This gives a fuller picture of how they feel about something – their love of a product, for example, will shine through in the way they talk about it in their clips.  Also, when doing product testing or shopalongs, I can see their entire experience from start to finish.  They don’t need to worry about remembering what they were thinking, or how they felt… the selfie – whether it’s a picture or video – allows them to share their thoughts, feelings, and entire experiences in that moment.  Once that moment is done, they can simply upload it to the study platform, and go about their merry way, without having to try to recreate the experience later.  This makes for a happy participant, and a happy researcher!

Just think, because of the selfie, we as researchers are able to:

  • Capture consumer in-store experiences
  • Capture consumer behaviors, emotions, and habits
  • Capture the use of products in home or on the go
  • Record clips of website usage
  • Capture interactions with brands

Whether you’re conducting a full study, or chatting with consumers in a pulse or ongoing community setting, with today’s mobile technology it’s easier than ever to capture these experiences.

So, the next time your teen-aged daughter posts yet another selfie on Instagram (this seems to happen often in my house at least a dozen times a week), say Thank You!  For she’s helping us to better understand her needs, behaviors and habits!