Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
B 1: Digital Trace Data
Thursday, 10/Sep/2020:
10:30 - 11:30

Session Chair: Florian Keusch, University of Mannheim, Germany

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Can social media data complement traditional survey data? A reflexion matrix to evaluate their relevance for the study of public opinion

Maud Reveilhac, Stephanie Steinmetz, Davide Morselli

Lausanne University, Switzerland

Relevance & research question:

Traditionally, public opinion (PO) has been measured through probability-based surveys, which are considered the gold standard for generalising findings due to their population representativeness. The turn to social media data (SMD) to gauge PO in recent years has however led to a discussion about the potential for augmenting or even replacing survey data. Survey and social media researchers have, therefore, increasingly explored ways in which social media and survey data are likely to yield similar conclusions. In this context, two core challenges can be identified: i) researchers have mainly emphasised on replacement of survey data by SMD, rather than on the complementarity between both data sources; ii) there are currently two understandings of PO, which makes complementarity of both data sources quite difficult. As a result, researchers still need more guidance on to best complement SMD with survey data.

(Methods & Data):

Whereas the recent extension of the Total Survey Error framework to SMD is an important step to account for the quality of both data sources, we would like to propose an addition step that should come ideally before the discussion and evaluation of the quality of the collected data. Building on four key challenges, we develop a reflexion matrix to provide practical guidelines dealing with the complementarity of both data sources for the study of PO.


Our results convey two main take-home messages: i) we demonstrate that the main approach validating what we have found via surveys using SMD is problematic as survey measures convey an idea of simplicity and aggregation, whereas SMD are complex and multi-dimensional; ii) we provide researcher with an orientation of how SMD can be a potential complementary source to survey data.

Added Value:

We argue for the necessity to develop different and complementary views of PO if conducting research with a mixed-method approach, where complementarity of the data sources is one essential criteria. In addition, we point to possible solutions from other disciplines which have been little considered in studies of PO yet.

Using Facebook & Instagram to Recruit LGBTQ for Web Survey Research

Simon Kühne

Bielefeld University, Germany

Relevance & Research Question: In many countries and contexts, survey researchers are facing decreasing response rates and increasing survey costs. Data collection is even more complex and expensive when rare or hard-to-reach populations are to be sampled and surveyed. Alternative sampling and recruiting approaches are usually needed in these cases including non-probability and online convenience sampling. A rather novel approach to recruit rare populations for online & mobile survey participation uses advertisements on social media. In this study, I present the fieldwork results of a survey of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ), for which participants were recruited via ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Methods & Data: In 2019, an ad campaign was launched on Facebook and Instagram to recruit German web survey participants self-identifying as LGBT or Q. The survey was part of a research project on LGBTQ and Rainbow Families in Germany conducted at Bielefeld University. The questionnaire covered a variety of topics including partnership, family/children, employment, health, and experience of discrimination.

Results: Over the course of 5 weeks, over 7,000 respondents participated in the web survey (completed interviews). Comparatively few screen-outs and survey break-offs were observed throughout the fieldwork period. Plausibility checks and measurement error indicators point to good data quality.

Added Value: This study provides novel insights on how to plan and conduct an ad campaign for recruiting rare and hard-to-reach populations for web survey research. First, the practical details and challenges of fieldwork and campaign management are discussed. Second, the survey data is analyzed focusing on survey error and potential data quality issues. And finally, the social media sample survey is compared to a probability-based, face-to-face sample survey of LGBTQ in Germany that was carried out simultaneously as part of the research project.

Some like it old

Clemens Rathe, François Erner

respondi, Germany & France

Relevance & Research Question:

French people have discovered a passion for recycling! Circular economy is growing, offline with “brocantes” (=flea markets) everywhere, and online with online marketplaces selling second hand products.

But French people do not use ebay, they use; the 4th most visited website in France (with 26 million unique visitors per month, right below giant tech companies) where all types of secondhand products can be found.

Another surprise comes from the youngsters (aged 15-25 yo). They do love old stuff! For many categories of products, ranging from clothes to smartphones, younger consumers would rather shop second hand than new.

This research, conducted for Le Bon Coin, is aimed at explaining the attractiveness of old products to the younger generation.


This research relies on a two-step process

1) Online behaviour (web visits and apps usages) of 300 young French tracked for more than one year. We have focused on their secondhand products shopping online patterns.

2) These respondents were then invited to participate in an online community. We organized a 7-day community on the topics of consumption, collaborative consumption and online vintage shopping with more than 100 individuals.


This research shows second hand goods fulfill two major aspirations of these new generations; firstly the quest for more sustainable practices, and secondly the desire for individual distinction. Circular economy is perceived as ethically more acceptable, and second hand products tend to be more unique or exclusive: vintage goods offer double the reward for these young consumers, who wish to appear more responsible and less conformist than their elders.

These results are based on a segmentation of young people buying old stuff online.

Added value

These findings help to understand the disruptive mindset of these new customers and will be of great interest to retailers and brands that need to quickly address shifts in attitudes and behaviors of young consumers. From a more actionable perspective, our research also focuses on best practices for online platforms for buying, selling and trading used products to highlight what leboncoin has achieved in France and what ebay did not.

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