Snowball Sampling and Facebook: How Social Media Can Help Access Hard-to-Reach Populations

Snowball Sampling and Facebook: How Social Media Can Help Access Hard-to-Reach Populations

By Tomas Dosek, Pontifical Catholic University of Peru

The snowball sampling method (SSM) is one of the most widely used methods to collect information about hard-to-reach populations and in low-information contexts. This article argues that SSM can be enhanced by the use of Facebook in at least three ways. This social-networking site helps to address some of the inherent limitations of SSM by learning about local contexts and identifying principal political actors, by gathering background information about and establishing contact with them, and by triangulating information they provide and reaching out to additional key informants. Thus, this article shows how Facebook can provide leverage in overcoming the problem of biased samples and offers concrete empirical illustrations from research on local politics in Latin American countries.