Facebook is adding another service as a means to bring in revenue.  No, it’s not video, applications, or another new advertising system.  Facebook is turning to market research as a means of generating revenue.  Sounds great on the outside – and like Google Insights, businesses have been drooling over access to that kind of information – but I have a few things that should be kept in mind…

  • Facebook is growing rapidly and encompassing older users too.  Users ages 18-24 previously made up the majority of visitors – now users 25-34 do.  While the base is growing, careful consideration should still be given to sampling.  Is who you are trying to reach  adequately represented on Facebook?  How may Facebook users differ from non-Facebook users?
  • While users may be enthusiastic to respond at first, they’ll likely start to ignore requests sooner than later, only increasing any non-response bias.  Facebook users are already trained to ignore requests – how many [game, fan, cause, relative, application, or even friend] requests do you ignore daily on Facebook?
  • What will this type of research be best at?  Quick surveys would be ideal.  Users don’t linger on any one part of the site too long and they’re probably not going to spend all of their time on the site doing a survey.  A few articles have mentioned this being a great substitute for focus groups.  Focus groups?  They won’t get the depth of information in these surveys that they would in a properly executed focus group.

And a few questions and wishes…

  • How about turning groups into communities dedicated to research?  Having surveys, discussion boards, etc may actually keep users more engaged in groups.
  • Facebook Lexicon mines wall posts, much like Google Trends does searches.  How about mining and aggregating other information?  You could mine information from the basic profiles, to groups individuals belong to, or even applications (maybe you want to see where certain types of users have traveled to by using the “Where I’ve Been” application).
  • How are users going to be incentivized?  Some type of currency, either real or virtual?
  • How will this impact the other panel providers, especially ones that specialize in sampling from online communities?

Overall, I believe this will be very exciting and I look forward to my first opportunity to take advantage of this service.  It’s one more tool in the market researcher’s ever-growing toolbox.