18 Tips For Doing A Research Interview On Social Media

I’ve always been a bit of a research nerd. I love digging into how people feel about different things, whether it’s something as simple as how they feel about their hometown or more complex like what they think of an ad campaign. 

As someone who works in the marketing world, these kinds of research projects are my bread and butter. But I never imagined that I would get to use these skills by interviewing people on social media. 

Yep, you heard me right! Since the pandemic began, many brands have had to cut back on in-person interactions with potential customers. 

This means that any insights that used to come from asking in-person questions or conducting focus groups now have to be gathered through online methods like email surveys or social media messaging (the latter is where I come in.) 

The limitations imposed by this new normal make it even more important for marketers like me to get creative with gathering information from customers and prospects. So without further ado, here are some tips for conducting effective interviews on social media:

Online Interviewing Tips for Researchers – YouTube
1. Plan your research objectives and questions carefully.
2. Select the appropriate social media platforms for your target audience.
3. Utilize hashtags and keywords to identify potential interview participants.
4. Craft open-ended questions that encourage detailed responses.
5. Consider using a mix of text, images, and videos for diverse insights.
6. Obtain informed consent and ensure participants’ privacy.
7. Establish rapport and build a connection with interviewees.
8. Schedule interviews at participants’ convenience to enhance cooperation.
9. Use active listening techniques to encourage participants to share freely.
10. Employ probing questions to delve deeper into participants’ perspectives.

1. Avoid Yes/No Questions

A research interview is a conversation. You’re not just asking questions, you’re having a conversation with the person you’re talking to. 

As part of this, it’s important that you don’t limit the kinds of answers they can give by asking yes/no questions. “Do you like cats?” Yes or no? A better question would be “What do you think about cats?”

A good rule of thumb when interviewing someone is to avoid using leading questions that are too direct and assume a particular answer before they’ve even been asked but there are situations where they might be necessary. 

For example, if I wanted to find out how much people remembered their first job (a common topic in interviews), I wouldn’t ask: “What was your first job?” Instead, I’d ask something like “Tell me about your first job.” 

This will still elicit an answer without being too leading; after all, if someone tells me about their first job without any prompting from me, then obviously it was important! Still though… maybe try not using them unless necessary?

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2. Work Backward From Your Goals To Your Questions

You don’t want to waste your interviewee’s time, and you don’t want to waste your own so it pays to make sure you’re asking questions that will help you do the research you need.

To make sure that’s what happens, work backward from your goals. Be clear about what you want to get out of the interview: information? new insights? a better understanding of something specific? A sense of how someone else’s experience relates or differs from yours? 

Once you know what it is, write down some questions that will help move toward meeting those goals. 

Do this for both yourself (your interviewer) and your interviewee (the subject). Write down as many as come up in each category; there may be more than one set of questions for each.

3. Be Aware Of Your Own Bias

You should also be aware of your own biases. It’s natural to have opinions and beliefs, but you need to know when they’re affecting your work. 

If you find yourself thinking “well, this person seems nice” or “this person must be lying”, that could be a sign that something is off with the way the interview is going.

Be mindful of what sorts of questions and answers might push certain buttons for you and look for ways around those kinds of situations in future interviews. 

You want to avoid any situation where someone might feel uncomfortable answering something because it conflicts with how they see themselves or because it evokes some kind of reaction from something else in their past.

For example: if someone has said something negative about another group (their gender/race/sexuality), don’t ask them more questions about that group unless they bring it up themselves!

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4. Ask Open-Ended Questions

“What Is An Open-Ended Question?”

An open-ended question allows a respondent to provide his or her answer without your having to choose a specific answer from a list. For example, instead of asking someone what they thought about your event, you could ask them why they didn’t attend it.

“How Do I Ask Open-Ended Questions?”

There are several ways to ask an open-ended question:

“Why did you not attend my event?” (This is preferable because it incorporates both the word ‘why’ and shows that you care about their answer.)

“What would have made this event better for you?” followed by silence while they think before saying their response. 

Make sure that you don’t fill in any blanks with yes/no questions like “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” or closed questions like “Didn’t this event give me all the answers I needed?”

5. Structure The Interview Around Themes Or Topics

This is the most important part of your interview. If you don’t have one, you are going to be frustrated when you’re trying to figure out what happened and why.

I like using a template as a way of keeping track of my interviews so that I have a clear idea of what’s been done and where we are in the process. 

You can use any kind of list – prompts, questions (or even topics), themes, or topics with questions attached – but they must be organized in some way so that they make sense when used later on.

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6. Create Rapport With The Respondent You Are Interviewing

The most important thing you can do is make sure you have a rapport with the person you are interviewing. This means that they feel comfortable with you, and vice versa.

To create rapport:

  • Talk about something that they are interested in. You can ask them questions or give them examples of topics to discuss if they don’t feel like talking about themselves:
  • Have you ever played video games?
  • Ask open-ended questions (questions that require more than a yes or no answer). Examples include:
  • How long have you been playing video games? 3) Ask questions related to the topic at hand (this is easier if your interviewer already has some knowledge of what they will be discussing). Examples include: * Why do people play video games?

7. Make Sure You Have The Right Tools To Record And Transcribe The Conversation

The first step is to make sure you have the right tools to record and transcribe the conversation. You’re going to need a digital voice recorder, which can be purchased at any electronics store or ordered online. 

Make sure you have enough storage space so that your interview doesn’t get cut off mid-sentence! If you don’t know where the best place is to buy one, ask someone who knows tech like your brother or cousin.

Make sure that your microphone works well too! It should pick up sound clearly without distortion. Your USB cable and headphones should be compatible with the device as well—you don’t want any technical difficulties during your interview! 

Finally, download an app like Audacity or Speakonia that allows users to type in text as it records audio files so they can turn them into something more useful later on (I recommend this one because it has great reviews).

8. Find A Quiet Place

To start, we recommend finding a place where you can interview without noise distractions. This is especially important if you’re recording audio or video of the interview. If you have an audio recorder, it’s best to find a quiet area with minimal background noise. 

For video interviews, it’s helpful to find an area that doesn’t have a lot of people walking by because it may be distracting for both parties.

Additionally, consider whether your interviewee would prefer more privacy than usual when answering questions publicly on social media. It can feel awkward talking about personal things in public even if only friends and family see it and sometimes even if they don’t! 

The more private environment will make them feel more comfortable talking about their experiences with others who can relate and provide support through comments on posts or replies to tweets/retweets/reblogs/etc., etc., etc…

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9. Don’t Interrupt!

The interview is not about you, the interviewer. It is about them, the respondent. You can only get as much information from your research participants as they are willing to give you. 

Be respectful of this fact by avoiding interrupting them, even if you feel like it may be a good idea to clarify something that they said or ask another question before they’ve finished answering the first one (which can sometimes make it harder for people to open up).

10. Ask Follow-Up Questions Based On Answers To Previous Questions

As you’re asking your questions, keep in mind the follow-up questions you can use to get more information.

You want to give the interviewee enough space to answer at length, but there’s no need for them to go off on a tangent if they’ve already answered your question fully.

To get a clearer picture of what was going through their head when they decided to do something, ask: “What made it feel like a good idea?” or “What made this important for you?” 

You can also ask about other people who might have affected their decision or helped them along the way: “Who else was involved in this?” or “What did other people think about this?” This will help paint a fuller picture of why and how things happened as they did.

11. Always Ask Permission To Record

The most important rule of all: is never to record a conversation without asking permission first. 

When you are conducting an interview, always inform the person that you are recording it and make sure they understand that it is not being recorded for any other reason than for your research.

It is also very important to inform each person who participates in your research that their responses will be used in this way, even if they have previously agreed to be interviewed by phone or face-to-face. 

Because there may be issues with consent (especially in cases where underage participants are involved), it is best practice to notify them verbally before starting the interview itself.

So they can decide whether or not they want to proceed with participating once they know exactly what type of information will be captured during the process of recording conversations between two people over social media platforms such as Facebook Messenger or Instagram Direct Messages!

12. Make Your Interviewee Feel Comfortable

Be Friendly, But Not Too Friendly

The first rule of interviewing someone for a research project is to get them talking. To do this, it’s important to make sure that person feels comfortable. If you seem too friendly or overly excited about what you’re doing, they may just clam up and refuse to answer any questions at all. 

The key here is balance; don’t come off as too friendly because that will make them feel uncomfortable (and no one likes being made uncomfortable), but also don’t come off as too standoffish or cold either.

You want them to be able to trust you and understand that they can say whatever they want without fear of judgment or criticism from you!

Give Them Time To Adjust To The Situation Before Asking A Question

If someone has agreed to an interview with me over social media, I try my best not to rush into asking my questions right away after introducing myself properly first via direct message on Twitter or Facebook Messenger, etc… 

Instead, I usually wait until later down the line when we’ve already established some rapport over messages back and forth between us before asking something more formal like: “So tell me about yourself?” 

This gives both parties time to get used to familiarize themselves with each other’s needs/desires so there won’t be any major miscommunication later down the road during actual interview sessions themselves.”

13. Don’t Be Afraid To Go Off Script

Don’t be afraid to go off-script you’re not going to want to look like a total jerk if you don’t follow through on what you said you were going to do, but you also need to be flexible and open-minded. 

If your interviewee says something interesting (or even more interesting) than what they initially told you about, ask them about it! Even if it doesn’t seem relevant at first glance, chances are there might be something in there that could help with your research.

For example, let’s say someone tells me “I love cats! I have two of them! They’re so cute!” This isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff for my project on cat ownership rates across the country, but when I ask “Why do cats matter so much? What does having pets mean in general? 

What do pets add into our lives?” we suddenly get into some pretty deep territory about why we love animals and how important they are as companions in our lives.

14. Ask Leading Questions

You can also use a leading question to help you get to the heart of the issue. If you’re trying to understand why someone is using Facebook, for example, don’t just ask them what they like about it. 

Instead, ask “How did you first find out about Facebook?” or “What made you start using Facebook?” 

These questions will help ensure that the respondent is not just giving generic answers (i.e., “It’s easy” or “My friends use it”) but rather more specifically describing how he or she came into contact with Facebook and how he or she uses it now.

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15. Follow Up With Specific Questions

In addition to the questions you have in your pre-interview research, there are many ways that you can ask follow-up questions to further explore topics and issues. Here’s a list of some of the most common follow-up questions:

  • Ask open-ended why and how questions. For example: “Why do people feel this way about X?” or “How do they respond when they find out that X is happening?”
  • Ask about a specific incident or period. For example: “What was going on with [name] during those months?” or “When did [name] start working at [company]?”

16. Stick To The Topic At Hand

As you’re preparing for the interview, keep in mind that your goal is not to get people talking about themselves. Instead, you want them to talk about the topic at hand. 

So if you’re trying to find out what social media strategy a company uses for its marketing campaigns, don’t ask something like “What do you do for fun on weekends?”

This might seem obvious but if it helps: You can always ask follow-up questions or even interrupt when someone veers off track or goes off script just make sure it doesn’t sound rude!

Finally, don’t be afraid of leading questions they can help guide the conversation in the right direction if they’re used strategically (and sparingly).

17. Don’t Be Afraid To Follow Your Gut Instinct

Don’t be afraid to follow your gut instinct. If you’ve been interviewing someone for a while and they seem reluctant or unresponsive, don’t let that stop you from asking the tough questions! You may have just discovered something juicy.

Don’t be afraid to go off-script. If there’s a topic that comes up during an interview that isn’t on your list of questions (but is interesting nonetheless), don’t hesitate to explore if that’s what makes interviews so fun!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions that make you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed as long as they are relevant to the topic at hand and non-biased/offensive; if anything, these personal feelings will only add depth and authenticity to your article later on down the road!

18. Focus On What’s Interesting About Your Interviewee And Their Story

The first step is to find someone who is interesting. This can be as simple as finding a person with a story you want to tell, or it could be someone who has an interesting job or works in an industry that interests you. The most important thing is to listen more than you talk.

Rather than asking questions that are too specific, ask more open-ended questions. For example: instead of “what’s your favorite flavor?”, try “what flavors do you like?” or instead of “how did you choose this career?”, try “where do your career ambitions lie?”. 

Asking leading questions will help steer the interviewee into answering what they think will make them sound good rather than giving genuine answers about themselves and their experiences. 

Following your gut instinct when choosing which topics might be best for the project (and therefore what kinds of questions should be asked) will also help guide the conversation in ways that highlight the most relevant aspects of both parties’ stories.


To sum it all up, the most important thing is that you’re prepared. You should have a list of questions and stick to them, but also be flexible and willing to change things up if the interview takes an unexpected turn (which it often does). 

The key is having enough interviews under your belt that you know what works best for you, so don’t get discouraged!

Further Reading

Expand your knowledge with these additional resources on research interviews and social media:

Research Interviews in Social Sciences: Dive deeper into the world of research interviews by exploring this academic article on research interviews in social sciences. Gain insights into various methodologies and approaches.

Tips for Effective User Interviews: Discover practical advice for capturing valuable data from user interviews with this informative guide from 18F: Tips for Capturing the Best Data from User Interviews.

Utilizing Social Media for Interview Research: Explore how social media can be harnessed for research interviews. Learn techniques and strategies from the article Social Media for Interview Research by Cultivitae.


What are the key steps in conducting a research interview?

Conducting a research interview involves several crucial steps, including defining your research objectives, selecting participants, crafting interview questions, conducting interviews, analyzing responses, and drawing meaningful conclusions.

How can I ensure the quality of data collected from user interviews?

To ensure high-quality data, focus on open-ended questions that encourage detailed responses, actively listen to participants, establish rapport, and employ probing techniques to delve deeper into their insights.

What are some ethical considerations when conducting interviews on social media?

When conducting interviews on social media, it’s essential to respect privacy, obtain informed consent, and be transparent about the purpose of the interview. Also, ensure anonymity or pseudonymity when sharing participants’ responses.

How can I effectively analyze qualitative data from research interviews?

Effective analysis involves coding responses, identifying patterns and themes, creating categories, and interpreting the data. Consider using qualitative analysis software or manual coding techniques for a comprehensive understanding of participants’ perspectives.

What strategies can I use to maximize the value of social media for interview research?

Leverage social media platforms’ search features to identify potential participants, engage with relevant communities, and utilize hashtags to reach your target audience. Be prepared to adapt your approach to different social media platforms’ unique dynamics.