TAKING IT ONLINE: PART 1
So, you’re considering doing qualitative research through an online message board forum. We’ve found two circumstances are materially different in a message board type of forum.
First, people don’t write as much in a message board as they will speak in person. (We’ve also observed that men tend to write even less than women do).
Second, this type of platform is asynchronous, meaning everyone’s not there at the same time. That asynchronicity can create less cohesion among participants and – consequently – less conversation between participants.
You can plan ahead for these considerations in a few ways:
1 — PERSONALIZE & BUILD CAMARADERIE
Have people introduce themselves upfront, using multimedia tools such as pictures and video to enable participants to share fun tidbits about themselves. This will help create a heightened sense of camaraderie. Encourage people to comment on each other’s pets, or houses, or yardwork to kickoff a sense of community. And have the moderator do the same!
(But make sure you’re following all data privacy laws in doing this – that includes providing legal disclosures with signatures before you start, especially if they’re going to be sharing personal and family photos or video.)
2 — DESIGN QUESTIONS FOR DETAILED ANSWERS
As you get into the meat of the conversation, anchor your questions very clearly. “What is your favorite television show, and why?” will probably get you something pretty basic like, “Tiger King, it’s crazy.” Maybe that’s all you needed, but maybe you were hoping for something a little more in-depth.
Consider the following series of questions, instead. “What is your favorite TV show to watch right now? What about it is drawing you in? What are the characters, relationships, or scenarios that make you look forward to watching?”
You’re probably still going to get something relatively pithy, but it will still be more detailed, such as, “I cannot help but watch Tiger King. These folks are crazy and get crazier with each episode. How is this even legal?”
Now, you’ve learned a little bit more – that Tiger King is a guilty pleasure, that the character arcs build over the season, and that the shock value is part of the engagement.
3 — BUILD IN SIGNIFICANT TIME FOR FOLLOW-UPS
Expect the moderator to have to ask “why” and “what about” multiple times. And leave time (literally an extra day or two) for those sorts of follow-ups that don’t arise organically or immediately in a non-linear platform.
As you write the guide, upload standard follow-up questions like, “What do the rest of you think of this?” And don’t be afraid to ask off-the-cuff follow-ups as you would in a focus group. “Ah, Tiger King, glad you brought that up! Who else is watching this? What made you watch Tiger King over other shows?”
4 — GIVE PEOPLE SOMETHING TO REACT TO
In message board forums, people are better at reacting than they are brainstorming from scratch. Even if you want to get to something high level, like, “What kind of advertising is resonating with you right now?” you can’t start there – it’s a hard question to answer.
Instead, start with a prompt or series of prompts. Show a few ads from YouTube, or a few display ads. Ask people what about them is resonating – or not. Some research platforms will even let participants mark up the ads with comments, likes, and dislikes, just as you would do with static ads in a live session.
Then you can drill down farther: “Are there any ads that we missed, that have really resonated with you lately? What made them stand out?”
And, “Have you seen any ads lately that really made you cringe? If so, what made it cringeworthy?” From there, you can discern the themes that answer your real question – what’s resonant and what isn’t?
“SHOULD WE USE MESSAGE BOARDS?”
WHEN TO USE:
Think of this as a great alternative to asking a bunch of open-ended questions on a survey, and an excellent methodology for when you want people to react to something concrete. For example, maybe you’ve got a video for them to react to, or a website you want some feedback on.
And remember, this methodology also requires having 2-3 days so that you have time for follow-up and for people to respond at their convenience.
WHEN NOT TO USE:
When you’re exploring something new and unknown, with nothing to react to, and need more depth of response through organic conversation (such as with Online Chats).
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