Netnography Research

netnography light

Netnography Research

When I was completing my Project Proposal and Plan I came across Netnography and a research Methodology. I had no idea what it was or how to use this technique so I have researched into it further. I also wanted to find out if Netnography was appropriate for my research topic.

What is Netnography?

Jeanes & Huzzard (2014) believe that Netnography was developed in “order to capitalize on the research potential emanating from internet-based communication, providing researchers with proper methodological procedures for how to conduct trustworthy, credible and rigorous research online.”

Alavi (2015) states that Netnography is an “online community research, that can be done by either actively integrating the members and ideas of the community or passively monitoring the community and integrating the gathered information, knowledge into the new product development process.” (p.72)

Netnography is participant-observational research conducted in online environment. It makes use of interactional online communications as the source for data collection. The aim of Netnography study is to arrive at an ethnographic understanding and representation of the social and cultural experiences, in both offline and online settings.” (Jeanes & Huzzard, 2014)

The Purpose of Netnography

The ‘SAGE handbook of qualitative data analysis’ (Flick, 2014) describes the purpose of netnographic study “is to organize the collected products of participation and observation into a rigorous, meaningful, and useful form of research output, such as an article, a report, a presentation, or even a book. The data will likely include various downloaded textual, graphical, photographic, audio, and audio-visual files, screen captures, online interview transcripts, and reflective field notes.” (Flick, 2014, p.270)

Conducting Netnographic Analysis

The article ‘Netnographic analysis: understanding culture through social media data’ from ‘The SAGE handbook of qualitative data analysis’ (Flick, 2014) describes four important recommendations for conducting netnographic data analysis.

  • Netnographers should start with site specific data (particular social space), concentrating on a small number of postings (e.g. very constrained data set) in order to gain a deep cultural sense of ‘what is going on’.
  • Netnographers should undertake their cultural analysis as a participant. Also behave in a manner appropriate to other cultural participants (e.g. community members).
  • The Netnographers communications should be experienced, processed, and understood exactly as cultural members experience them. E.g. viewed in their natural ‘real-text’ format.
  • Netnographers allow time to unfold. For example, such that posts are experienced, read, interpreted, and analysed in real time, as they become available. (Flick, 2014, p.269).
(Zoppi, 2015)

Procedure for Netnographic Analysis

Alavi 2015) describes in his article ‘Netnography: An Internet-Optimized Ethnographic Research Technique’ a recommended procedure to follow when doing Netnography.

Definition of Research Field – define field of innovation, topics, trends, markets and products which are of major interest. Try producing an extensive mind map for research classification and defining your set of topics. Use the mind map to define search strategies for appropriate online sources.

Identification and Selection of Online Communities – identify communities and internet sources that focus on the defined research area. For example, using search engines to find blogs, groups, communities in the defined research area. Once online communities are identified, the researcher now selects the communities to use for the in-depth analysis. To support the researcher in the selection procedure, they can use qualitative and quantitative criteria. An example of qualitative criteria could be topic focus, data quality or interaction type. An example of quantitative criteria could be number of messages, frequency of usage or member activity.

Community Observation and Data Collection – The selected online communities are observed by the researcher. The researcher immerses in the community by observing conversations which are recent, extensively relate to, and frequently viewed from the community members. The researcher can study the online groups without actively participating. The researcher is free from bias as they are observing the community in their natural context.

Data Analysis and Aggregation of Consumer Insights – the researcher looks for patterns and relationships within and across the collected resources to make general discoveries about the topic of research. The researcher may find similarities and differences, or sequences of data and build typologies.

Translation of Community Insights into Product and Service Solutions – The researcher transfers their obtained findings into innovative product and service solutions. This could be for product, brand, and/or target group. (Alavi, 2015, p.73)

Establishing your Research Question

Bowler (Bowler, 2010) writes in his Qualitative Report on Kozinets’ book (2010) ‘Netnography. Doing ethnographic research online‘, that Kozinets (2010) establishes an appropriate way for Netnography researchers to construct and focus their research questions.

  • “Ask one or two central questions followed by no more than seven related sub-questions.
  • Relate the central question to the specific qualitative strategy of inquiry.
  • Begin the research questions with the words ‘what’ or ‘how’ to convey an open-ended and emergent research design.
  • Focus on a single phenomenon or concept.
  • Use exploratory verbs such as ‘discover’, ‘understand’, ‘explore’, ‘describe’, or ‘report’.
  • Use open-ended questions.
  • Specify the participants and the research site for study.” (Bowler, 2010)

Collecting Data in Netnography

The article ‘Netnographic analysis: understanding culture through social media data’ from ‘The SAGE handbook of qualitative data analysis’ (Flick, 2014) also describes the three general types of data available for collection in Netnography.

Archival data – also can be known as a ‘cultural baseline’, is any data that the researcher can gather from the Web that is not a product of their participation to create or stimulate the creation of data.

Elicited data – refer to data that is co-created by the members of the social media community and researcher through processes of social interaction.

Field note data – data that is produced directly by the researcher for the purpose of research recording, reflection, and analysis. This data is only for the researcher and researchers team. (Flick, 2014, p.267-268)

Thanks for reading. Zoe

Progress Report Week 4



Alavi, S. (2015). Netnography: An Internet-Optimized Ethnographic Research Technique. In A. Takhar-Lail, & A. Ghorbani (Eds.), Market Research Methodologies: Multi-Method and Qualitative Approaches (pp. 71-77). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-6371-8.ch005

Jeanes, E. & Huzzard, T. (2014). Critical netnography: conducting critical research online. In Jeanes, E. & Huzzard, T. Critical management research: Reflections from the field (pp. 135-152). London, : SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781446288610.n8

Flick, U. (2014). Netnographic analysis: understanding culture through social media data. In Flick, U. The SAGE handbook of qualitative data analysis (pp. 262-276). London, : SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781446282243.n18

Bowler, G. M., Jr. (2010). Netnography: A method specifically designed to study cultures and communities online. The Qualitative Report, 15(5), 1270-1275. Retrieved from

Kozinets, R. V. (2010). Netnography. Doing ethnographic research online. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Zoppi, I, G. (2015, November 13). What is netnography? [Blog post]. Retrieved from