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Code of Conduct

Researchers Responsibilities by Research Approach

V. Social Media



Social media is defined by ESOMAR as 'internet based platforms and technologies that permit users’ interaction and/or facilitate the creation and exchange of user generated content.

Widely used examples include:

  • Online forums/discussions, communities, blogs, social networks (e.g. Facebook)
  • Video/photo sharing (e.g. YouTube)
  • Multi-person/group communication and/or collaboration platforms (e.g. Twitter).

Website Terms and Conditions


When conducting social media market research, researchers are bound by the terms and conditions attached to access of the online services. Many service providers include intellectual property rights clauses that prohibit copying of material without consent. Researchers should ensure that they abide by the terms and conditions attached to use of site content. However if consent for listening/scraping is not given, researchers can read and précis the content.

Anonymising Quotations


Care should be taken to ensure that anonymous quotations are indeed anonymous and cannot be traced back to reveal their original source.

Passive market research i.e. digital listening, scraping


Without the contributor’s consent (obtained as part of the terms of use or directly) only anonymised data can be reported. Anonymised data should not reveal any personally identifiable information.


No attempt should be made to identify contributors. ESOMAR states that this MUST be a contractual obligation if the data is passed on to the client or another researcher. If a contributor’s comments are to be made public (i.e. cannot be covered by contractual obligations) and the contributor is identifiable, their consent should be sought or the comment disguised or ‘masked’ appropriately.


Quotations containing personally identifiable information (PII) can only be provided to the client if the contributor has given their consent for this and it has been made clear that they will not be subject to promotion as a result of this. In Germany, MR subject identity must remain anonymous and MR subjects cannot be asked to waive their right to confidentiality.


In ‘private’ SM spaces (ones in which users would expect their comments to be private), researchers should seek and gain the consent of contributors to listen in/scrape comments and comments given to clients MUST be masked unless the contributor gives consent for their comments to be passed on verbatim. This assumes the terms and conditions have not given explicit site owner and site user consent for listening in/scraping.

In Germany it should be remembered that local market research guidelines prohibit asking MR subject/contributor consent to pass their personal data to the client company.

Active Market Research i.e. engaging with participants


 Consent from the site/service owners and contributors/users MUST be given.


Researchers MUST declare their presence, they MUST NOT represent themselves as anything other than market researchers.


Contributors should be told the identity of the research organisation, purpose of the market research, what sort of data will be collected, how their comments will be used and who will have access to it.


Contributors should be provided with contact information for the researcher or research agency.


Researchers should publish a privacy policy on their website.


Online space created specifically for MR such as MROCs should fulfill the following criteria:

  • Participants MUST be aware of its function and the use to which their contributions might be put and that the data will be shared with the client
  • Any rules for interacting MUST be available
  • Site privacy policy MUST be available
  • The personal identity of participants MUST be protected.

Adverse Event Reporting


Adverse event reporting requirements are the same when market researchers use social media as a source of market research data as any other market research medium such as face to face interviews. Marketing authorisation holders and their agents have an obligation to collect and follow-up on the adverse events and product complaints associated with their products. This applies to public and private sites, passive and active approaches and to company sponsored and non-company sponsored websites.

If a company chooses to listen-in to or ‘scrape’ from non-company sponsored sites, whether public or private (with consent) it is recommended that the listened to pages should be monitored for adverse events for the period of the listening-in activity only. There is no obligation for researchers to monitor non-company sponsored sites routinely for adverse events if they are not being used for a market research purpose.

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