Digital Ethnography: Qualitative research technique evaluates users in the online environment

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Digital Ethnography

 

Digital transformation has changed the consumer journey in its essence. Today, users do not buy a product or acquire a service without seeking references and tutorials on the internet. In this context, digital ethnography, or netnography***, appears as an evolution of qualitative research, supporting projects centered on the end user or the development of analytical reports.

** It is important to emphasize that the academic environment uses different terminologies for ethnography in digital media:

– Netnography: Neologism created in the late 90’s (net + ethnography) to highlight the adaptations of the ethnographic method in relation to both data collection and analysis, as well as research ethics. Related to communication studies with approaches to consumption, marketing, and studies of fan communities. (…)

– Digital ethnography: Explore and expand the possibilities of virtual ethnography through the constant use of digital networks, posting the material collected. Another goal is the creation of collaborative audiovisual narratives in a language that serves as study material but also reaches an extra-academic audience.

– Webnography: Some authors use it as a term related to applied internet marketing research, related to the question of website metrics and audiences, mainly in discussion environments (…) just like netnography, webnography is also used for research in the academic and marketing fields.

– Cyberanthropology: (…)based on the concepts of Donna Haraway’s cyborg anthropology, it seeks to examine the technological reconstruction of man and prepare the ethnographer to deal with a broader category of “human being” in his reconfigurations.

Source:   (FRAGOSO, S.; RECUERO, R; AMARAL, A. Métodos de pesquisa para internet. Porto Alegre: Sulina, 2011)

How Digital Ethnography Works

This qualitative research technique is both observational and interactive because it focuses on and records the nuances of interpersonal behavior in the online environment.

Based on the combination of two research approaches – measurement and comprehension – digital ethnography records the navigation behaviors of a pre-selected group of users in digital spaces, and applies a series of structured questions as a chat, which is moderated by a qualitative research professional.

Why use this qualitative research technique?

With digital ethnography, the observation goes even further: the evaluations of the user’s habits and customs are done in a participatory manner. The internet user can interact with the brand or respond to online ads, which point to specific profile hot sites.

The ethnographer** immerses himself in specific groups and observes the practices and experiences of his audience. From the analysis of the data collected during the research, it is possible to obtain valuable information on the user, leading to the development of projects in synergy with their online behavior.

This is possible as the researcher maps thinking patterns about the same object, perceiving patterns and the differences and similarities between the behaviors of the users. This makes it possible to outline an ideal profile for creating personas. With the analysis at hand, it is easier to provide insights to make prototypes products and/or services that are more focused on these desires.

 ** ethnographer – ethnography scholar or specialist

Monitoring Digital Spaces

Searching for information on the internet can be more complex than you might think: analyzing word metrics, and other forms of research, does not define profiles. Digital monitoring is enhanced, based on “listening to the public” in your own environment of interest.

By interacting with the user in an engaged manner, the ethnographer is able to extract specific features, mapping and segmenting real people to guide the business.

Getting to know the user: the role of networks

The online behaviors of users generally mirrors their deepest desires, and can define their interests – both online and offline.

Understanding the mobile-first experience, the determining factors for buying or seeking information, navigating and how they behave in these virtual environments, helps generate insights to offer valuable projects in both segments (online and offline).

The different social media networks used – professional, social, corporate, community, political – support the exchange of information.

It is in this space that we can perceive the users’ demand for more agile and practical solutions. By empowering the users themselves, these networks break paradigms in thought creation, engaging and transforming their relationship with brands.

Digital ethnography in practice: brands bet on qualitative research to know the user

A company in the cosmetics industry created a specific virtual environment to get to know the behavior of internet users interested in a particular product. From a landing page registration, users exchanged usage experiences, personal needs and desires, monitored by a specialized search professional.

Getting to know the user through a digital survey was quite enriching. For users, the interaction with the “fictional corporate employee” has generated authority for the brand. As for the company, the feedback on the product provided rich insights, which allowed them to change the color, texture and shape of the product to meet consumer demand.

User behavior in favor of brands

The navigation metrics confirm the presence of these networks in the creation of relationships, both personal and corporate. At each new launch, or for each existing product or service, an interactive channel is created within the networks themselves to determine how customers see what they consume, their doubts and challenges, what they would like to change: packaging, flavor, texture, color, etc.

Virtual opinion polls are constant used to fully enhance or modify a product or service, and when consumers themselves realize that they were responsible for these transformations, monitoring becomes more prestigious.

The applied methodology allows us to understand that the current consumption of products and media is impacted on both fronts (online and offline): new options for making purchases, entertainment and even work and income increase are opened by the digital world, which interferes with the communication actions of the analog environment.

Do you want to learn more about how Digital Ethnography can positively impact your business strategies?

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