Humanity continues to integrate itself with digital spaces, both voluntarily and necessarily. Understanding how individuals, communities, consumers, and companies interact and live online is now a linchpin to an organization’s success. To know one’s audience or customer means to comprehensively comprehend their behaviors, motivations, and world views – in-person and online.
My Research and Analysis Process
One of the most useful qualitative research methods anthropologists employ is ethnography. It’s a hands-on, in the field method for data collection and analysis. In ethnography, the researcher conducts their study of a phenomena, group, or community from the view of the subject(s) of the research. Academic anthropologists typically try to conduct their ethnographic research over longer periods of time, though “mini-ethnographies” are also common in the professional world.
I am well-versed in this research method. During my undergraduate career, I conducted countless ethnographies to complete my coursework. Then while pursing my MSc. in Digital Anthropology, I worked on a much more robust ethnography that focused on moral and political aesthetic generation via social media. If you’re interested in my Master’s dissertation, do not hesitate to reach out!
Additionally, I’ve used this research method extensively in my professional career to truly understand the motivations, behaviors, and values of a community. It’s an engaging way to check the pulse of a community or audience, to learn their story, and to discover what stories they want to hear.
In order to fully understand the view of research participants, it isn’t enough to only observe. The researcher needs to participate as well. After all, how else can one really understand and experience without living it? This method helps the researcher gain many soft skills and nuanced knowledge of a given group. It also builds rapport with a community or audience. Rather than being some outside observer worthy of suspicion, the researcher begins have a similar stake in the community.
I’ve used participant observation academically and professionally to experience what it means to be part of a given community or audience. It’s helped me learn how, what, when, and why community members consume content. Importantly, this allows me to fine tune the stories I tell them – or tell their story accurately.
Traffic, SEO, and Engagement Reporting
Qualitative data also needs quantitative data. Web traffic and other hard metrics can provide valuable insight, particularly when paired with qualitative data sets, to how a community engages with various stories, content, and communications.
Typically, I’ll use all possible qualitative data reporting available. I use Google Analytics and Content Management System reporting (like WordPress, Hootsuite, Mailchimp, and more) together to get the clearest possible picture of hard metrics.
Continued Expansion of Best Practice Knowledge and Researcher’s Toolkit
To stay relevant and knowledgeable, I’m constantly learning new best practices, reading related work, and tweaking my methods. I don’t care for complacency and understand that there is always room to improve my craft. I write about this from time to time in the blog section of this website.