Reaching the Unreachable:
Why Social Media Sampling Provides Better Reach, Precision, and Results

Reaching the Unreachable:
Why Social Media Sampling Provides Better Reach, Precision, and Results

Rodolphe Barrere

01 June 2021
7 minute read

The hardest, but most rewarding, part of sampling both consumer and market research is finding the most relevant and honest participants who can be targeted in a niche way. In doing so, we can meet the time constraints of modern-day sampling.


Existing market research sampling methods have limitations in their ability to reach the right audience at the right time frame, particularly in the pandemic age. Phone surveys, focus groups, and live "intercept" methods have all been used for decades to gauge consumer sentiment and opinion, but are not as well-equipped to address many current dynamics.  In today’s ubiquitously connected, ultra-mobile world, new ways to reach consumers need to be explored. Web panels have become more popular because of their relative ease of implementation, lower costs, and relatively fast turnaround times, but this method also introduces some challenges. In particular, they aren’t as effective in meeting low incidence rates, and also, data quality can be spotty.

Most participants in web panels are incentivized to participate in surveys, and accurately screening them for relevancy is often difficult. Serial responders who use shortcut techniques, like straight-lining responses to quickly complete surveys, can skew results. A respondent who is motivated by wanting to voluntarily offer their views on a topic is typically a better sample than someone being paid for their opinion.

One of the channels that are oftentimes overlooked in the sampling tech toolbox is social media. Social media offers an opportunity to enhance existing survey methodologies and often allow access to hard-to-reach audiences. Today, it is possible to target self-motivated and non-incentivized people directly by recruiting participants via channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. There are more than 4 billion social media users worldwide (and the number just keeps climbing), which equates to about 45% of the current world’s population.

These channels have become some one of the most effective, time-efficient, and inexpensive tools for recruiting target participants to partake in research efforts. It’s a proactive and targeted method, and we call it social media sampling. Our technology borrows from digital marketing’s highly effective playbook of advertisers who have recognized the precision and effectiveness of targeting niche audiences on a global scale.

The right targeting leads to the right people which leads to quality data

Social media’s main advantage for sample recruitment is its ability to target a specific population. This takes into account age and gender, as well as interests, language, geographical area, etc. By surveying consumers virtually, it’s possible to establish trade areas that encompass all the different participants’ respective geographic locations. The inherent precision of targeting allows participants to be surveyed about topics they actually care about.

These are some of the targeting factors available in social networks: 

  • Geotargeting: country, region, city, metro area, postal, or zip code
  • Demographics: gender and age group,. education level, relationship status, income, and ethnic affinity 
  • Language: specific languages spoken. Researchers can also combine language with geotargeting to reach users speaking a specific language in a certain country
  • Interests: Reach audiences based on the topics they are interested in. Some social media platforms offer hundreds of interests to choose from
  • Keywords: For networks like Twitter, keyword targeting means reaching users that tweet specific keywords, while platforms like Facebook also target according to the words people use in searches 
  • Devices, operating systems, and network operators: Reach consumers using specific mobile phones, tablets, laptops, or operating systems
  • Your customer data: Social platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook allow researchers to upload lists containing user data. Import lists from your CRM system or email database to reach specific people or build lookalike audiences

By opening any social media profile on any platform, you are already providing lots of information about yourself, your habits, your location, the things you like or dislike, etc. The truth is, millions of people trust these channels with their information. In fact, these channels are where people are most comfortable to share their honest and accurate opinions and interests with the entire world. This means both consumer and market research can harvest insights for honest, respectful purposes from motivated, non-incentivized respondents.

Since our social media sampling method allows companies to target real people who specifically use their services and buy their products (or their competitors’), they are also guaranteeing a more representative, diverse, and genuine sample of the larger population.

Like any survey or sampling method, biases do exist within social media. For example, there is a coverage bias due to the fact that respondents must have internet access and also be social media users (however, this is still a large, and growing, base). Social sampling must also address advertising algorithm biases of the social media platforms, which are designed to maximize cost-per-click. Also, cognitive load bias due to longer surveys (e.g. 6-8 minutes) may not be as well suited to older or less educated respondents, although that is the case with any type of survey method. In all cases, social sampling can overcome these biases by sampling enough of the ‘right’ people to reach desired quotas.


At Potloc, we know how to effectively target individuals on social media and obtain highly-relevant and actionable insights from them. We then empower businesses with this high-quality data to strengthen their decisions and improve the quality of their offering. Check out our public dashboards to see just how powerful social media sampling truly is.

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How Potloc reaches the unreachable

Many survey techniques are bound by targeting people whom companies are aware of at some level. From existing customers, or prospects, or respondents who have gone through a highly rigorous qualification filter, the ability to survey consumers who meet specific profiles is a major asset in a company’s client acquisition strategy. But what about those who fall through the cracks?

  • Secondary customers: Those who didn’t choose your brand as their main source of consumption
  • Leaving Customers: Those who come less and less; who are turning their backs on you
  • Lapsed customers: Those whom you have lost in favor of the competition
  • Or just your non-clients

The link or QR code in a printed receipt just won’t cut it anymore. Methods used by major companies (surveys emailed to loyalty cardholders, surveys promoted on receipts, etc.) inherently cannot reach these strategic targets. These methods can only reach your customers, and oftentimes just the most loyal of them. Both web panels and social sampling are methods to overcome that issue by casting a wide net, one that still only catches the fish you care about, even if you don’t know about them.

Serial responders need not apply

So when should you look towards social media sampling instead of over web panels? Social media sampling is best for reaching very specific, even niche audiences. Suppose you need to survey 1,000 people who live in a specific neighbourhood of London or New York and work within a certain industry. With web panels, reaching a sizeable quota for criteria that precise would not only be challenging, but nearly impossible to achieve.

Another advantage Potloc has over web panels is that companies don’t need to pay participants to answer their surveys. We’ve discovered while conducting consumer research through social channels, the respondents are willing to give their honest and accurate insights without needing to be incentivized or motivated by any means.

Does social media sampling really work?

Yes! If you’re creating, targeting, and presenting the survey in a compelling way for a specific target audience, and your questionnaire is not more than 10 minutes long, people will always answer because they’re interested and want to share their opinions. And if the topic is of direct relevance to their specific interests, chances are that these respondents will be even more motivated and want to make their voices be heard.

This logic is supported by a theory known as “Digital Altruism”, a trend toward “recognizing that we can make a difference in the lives of others by sharing our knowledge online, and seeking out websites designed such that our everyday activities end up benefiting others.”  In other words, people want to share what they know so they can help others. And we believe this is what compels people to answer targeted surveys without any incentive. At Potloc, we believe the future of market research is social.

In contrast, web panels often fall victim to professional survey takers, the usual suspect respondents who are solely motivated to complete surveys in order to receive a financial incentive. These types of respondent profiles can easily be altered to meet specific criteria and demographics being sought out. Therefore, many panels are populated with serial respondents and “professional” survey takers, many of which may not be exactly the type of respondents you think they are.

Potloc’s high data quality leads to smarter decision making

Consumer insight and market research aims to obtain data of the highest quality and the most representative data possible, too. This means companies truly need to engage with real, active consumers who are actually out there buying their products or using their services. Knowing what any target audience really wants gives decision-makers the tools to develop better offerings, streamline the customer experience, understand demand, gain an advantage over competitors, and develop new products and services.

Just as the methodologies used to conduct insightful market research have evolved, the quality of the data obtained from it is improving as well. The truth is, the data quality will define how successful the decision-making process is, and therefore, how companies can shape their revenue streams.

The trick is making sure the data that comes out of that research is sound, accurate, and aligns with your objectives. This is where the method used to conduct quantitative research is important. Potloc’s revolutionary social media sampling technology uses the reach and precision of social media networks to target niche respondents on both a local and global scale. Our sampling solution is proving to be an effective method to conduct market research because Potloc’s ability to reach the previously unreachable provides the most accurate and insightful data quality possible–without needing to use incentives.

Is your business looking to learn more about our social media sampling and how we run respondent acquisition at Potloc? Check out our public studies at, or better yet, schedule a meeting with one of our experts today.

Potloc conducts market research on B2B and B2C audiences, locally and internationally. Get fast, reliable results along with detailed analyses. 

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