Paul Hannon in the Wall Street Journal: “Social media potentially offers cheaper and more timely way to survey firms and gauge the economy…Facebook has teamed up with the World Bank and the OECD to launch a new measure of business sentiment based on questioning companies that use their Facebook pages to connect with customers.
The three partners on Wednesday launched a new measure of business sentiment based on questioning companies that use their Facebook pages to connect with customers. Known as the Future of Business Survey, the report has been in testing since February and received responses to 15 queries from a total of 90,000 small and midsize firms across 22 countries.
Its first public release shows that those businesses are more optimistic about their prospects than other companies surveyed by more traditional means.
But the real interest for the three partners is the potential to drill down into the factors that affect the growth of small businesses, a process that until now has involved great expense and time, since it involves face-to-face interviews by polling professionals that are carried out over many months and are infrequently updated. “What I feel is appealing about this particular survey is that it’s potentially a more powerful tool for getting information more quickly and at a fraction of the cost,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, director of the Global Indicators Group at the World Bank.
Even in developed countries with well funded and equipped statistics offices, timely information on very small businesses is hard to come by. In developing countries, that scarcity can be more acute. The ability to connect with business owners via Facebook or other social-media platforms could make it possible to gather such information, and acquire a more complete picture of what is happening in those economies.
The new approach to data gathering could even enable some smaller developing countries to skip the process of enlarging their statistics agencies. That is an opportunity Mr. Lopez Claros compares to the advent of mobile telephones, which enabled many African countries to skip the construction of expensive fixed-line infrastructure and improve communications at a fraction of that cost….(More)
See also Entrepreneurship at a Glance 2016 (OECD).