Congress Report: MRS Social Media Conference

I recently attended the MRS Social Media Research conference in the UK (check out the programme in this pdf). I saw some great papers from our friends at Promise and Join the Dots about research communities (a subject particularly close to InSites hearts) plus a great end paper from Carrie Longton, founder of mumsnet, about the journey from her kitchen table to being one of the most successful examples of social media in the UK (check out the presentation below on SlideShare).  It’s a story of dedication, perseverance, a Prime Ministers choice of biscuit and ultimately the power it (or rather the members) now exert on the mainstream and how brands can tap into a powerful resource to understand how consumers really feel.
One paper in particular from TunedIn Research talked about how they are engaging participants through social media, and taking communication planning to the next level, by actively involving them in the creative process, and generating real campaigns.  Their work was built around three key beliefs:

  1. Research Director + Creative Director = Co-Creation Directors
  2. Consumers are part of our creative team
  3. Research is the creative. The creative is research.

For anyone thinks research is dull, this was a great example of how to engage a community and generate outcomes, not just findings and reports, but actual real life campaigns.  Research at its best.  I also sat on the panel debate about the ethics involved in social media research.  Now I’m the first to admit this wouldn’t be my “Mastermind” specialist subject, but I do know what is right, and what is wrong, and after some intensive reading up on the subject and the debate, I find that the research industry is wrestling with the issues, and no-one has the definitive answer.
On the one hand, the MRS have released a consultation document which seeks to clarify what should be undertaken in the social media space, and on the other a storm of protest from many innovative research firms who claim the document stifles innovation, hinders progress and risks marginalising the industry.  The consultation document they produced has polarised the industry, and produced screams of protest from innovative players.  To be fair to the MRS standards officer, he did say with tongue firmly in cheek, that it felt as if they had proposed “drowning puppies” amongst the other well intentioned proposals in the consultation document.
It’s clear that this is a grey and evolving area, and until (if) there is agreement, here at InSites, we are developing best practice guidelines which should lead us through the moral and legal maze and ensure that our clients, and our research participants are delighted.  A quick look at this article from Brian Tarran at ResearchLive highlights many of the arguments and counter arguments. Below, you’ll find the presentation of Carrie Longton:

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