5 Ways to Improve Your Online Research

We have been providing insights to our clients through online qualitative research for over 15 years.  We primarily use online bulletin board focus groups (BBFGs).  However, we also use online focus groups and IDI’s to put our clients in touch with their target audiences.  Over the years, we have learned how to get deeper, richer responses from the participants in our online bulletin board focus groups.  I wanted to share some of these tips to help you get more out of your next BBFG.

Use video pre-screening to evaluate participants’ level of articulation and enthusiasm.

Usually all of our recruitment for our BBFGs is done online.  As part of the online screener we have potential respondents upload a brief video answering an articulation question.   The question could also be a general question related to the research topic.  For example, what is your favorite video game?  Please also tell us the reasons it is currently your favorite.   

 A video pre-screening question provides us with many benefits.  We get to gauge the level of articulation and thoroughness of participants.  This is often a good indication of how thorough they will be during the BBFG.  If video is a part of the research, we also get a chance to see how comfortable they are with using technology.  Finally, this helps us to select the respondents we believe will be the best fit for our client’s study.

Set expectations in the greeting and introduction for participants to give detailed responses.

In my introduction to my respondents, I tell them to imagine me on the other end reading their posts saying, “tell me more about that” or “what makes you think that?”  Also, I state the more detail you can provide, the better.  This helps set the expectation before the first question that more detail is better.

Writing precise questions with follow-up probes helps to get better responses.

Precise questions will usually receive a better response than general questions. An example of a precise question with a follow-up probe is “what three words would you use to describe this product? Please be sure to tell me the reasons for choosing each word.”  I have found this gives a more thorough response than just asking, “How would you describe this product?” Also, it is better not to include multiple questions together.  I often find that participants do not answer all of the questions or provide partial answers. Instead, break the questions up for better responses.

Send a probe email to improve response rates to follow-up questions.

We tell participants up front to check in on the board twice a day to see if there are follow-up questions for them to answer.  Some participants are better than others at doing so.  I have found that sending a probe email when I ask a follow-up question greatly improves responses to my follow-ups.

Checking time stamps when participants are reviewing video stimuli.

We once had a project where participants had to watch a five-minute video and provide a response to the video.  So, we knew that at least 6 minutes had to pass before their response to the next question.  We actually had some participants provide an answer to the question without watching the video. We knew this because their response to the next question was within the six-minute window.  They could not have possibly completed the task.  In this situation, we asked them to go back and watch the video.

We find that online BBFGs are an excellent tool to help clients get the insights they need to build their businesses.  These are some of the ways we help them get more out of their online research.

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