Observational social media research
involves analyzing social media data without intervention or interaction from the researcher. In this mode of research, you search for, look at, collect, synthesize, and analyze data that exist in the social media sphere (blogs, newsgroups, forums, message boards, and microblogs). The goal is to measure and gauge public awareness and sentiment of issues, products, or brands. Not long ago I headed up a panel of industry thought leaders that focused on this type of social media research, and what it might mean for our industry.
It is true that social media is the newest channel of communication for researchers to deal with, and it presents us with unique research challenges and possibilities.