Five Useful Tips for Running Online Focus Groups and Discussion Boards

Five Useful Tips for Running Online Focus Groups and Discussion Boards

The pandemic has increased the pace of digital adoption and has taken us into the digital world almost overnight. So, it’s not surprising to see industries and experts going through a digital learning curve. The market research industry was affected as well, as adjusting to the new normal meant that extensive research and a lot of input from the industry professionals was required to set new quality standards.

In this blog, we cover a few useful tips that online qualitative researchers can follow to run online focus groups. These tips will help you ensure smooth interaction and give you a chance to improve the results you get from online focus groups.

Be Interactive

Raise your hands if you are tired of video calls. You’re not the only one with their hand up. The higher cognitive load of video calls has led to an increase in Zoom fatigue. While we as researchers are facing this challenge, chances are that our respondents are also experiencing the fatigue of video calls.

Instead of making your focus group just another video call with a group of strangers, you should try to be more interactive as a moderator and create a unique experience for the audience. One tip that will help you do that is using online interactive activities to stimulate responses from your audience. Additionally, you can also gamify the experience to ensure everyone is involved and in sync with what is happening.

Bridge the Gap between Saying and Doing

While it is good to hear what people have to say, you should look to bridge the gap between what is being said and what is being done. Advertising guru David Ogilvy once said, “People don’t think what they feel, don’t say what they think, and don’t do what they say.” Try building activities that help unearth what people actually think, rather than what they are just saying. Consider tasks to deepen the discussion and dig deeper into specific preferences and experiences. For example, you could ask participants to do a short homework exercise such as sharing photos of clothes they really enjoy and clothes they regret purchasing to the discussion board. We recently completed a project where the clients went to the store and connected via a mobile device to a video interview and shared with the researcher their experience locating the product in the store.

Dig Deeper

Continuing on from where we left in the last point, it is highly necessary that you dig deeper into what the participants really have to say. Since online focus groups are usually attended from home, researchers can now dig deep into what respondents feel to explore their preferences and find out what is actually going on in their minds.  The digital world and modern solutions allow you to use multiple tools to express opinions, from polls to emojis. Probing questions are essential to explore the critical details to reveal insights.

Create Interesting Tasks to Boost Engagements

Participants are more likely to take part in tasks that:

  • meet (but do not exceed) the time frame promised,
  • are presented through an interesting variety of activities,
  • are easy to understand.

It is important to respect the time requirements for focus group completion, staying as close as possible to the time of participation agreed at the time of recruitment, or else you risk losing the interest of your participants. If participants are told that they need to spend 30 minutes a day or 2 hours for the whole session, the tasks should be adapted to the specified time to avoid participant burnout or a negative outlook towards the project. Tasks that last much shorter or longer might make participants feel like they have been lied to, that their input isn’t important, or that they are not valued – all things you want to avoid.

Additionally, to increase motivation and engagement, tasks should be as varied and entertaining as possible. If you can make your participants look forward to participating in your focus group each day, then you know that you’ve done something right. Try incorporating video responses, polls, games, and visual exercises to mix things up.

Lastly, because discussion boards are asynchronous and you may not always be logged in to answer questions at the same time as the participants, the activities should include clear instructions. Confused participants may not be able to provide the quality of responses you are looking for and may sometimes be reluctant to contact a moderator for help. What is clear to the researcher will not always be clear to someone who is not regularly participating in focus groups and discussion boards, so err on the side of caution and don’t worry about over-explaining.

Mind Your Language

While you shouldn’t act as the verbal police, you should know that language can influence responses in an online focus group. Moderators should set an example here and should lead from the front. Try to ask open-ended questions, which allow respondents to explore the possibilities rather than being bound by what you are asking. Instead of asking respondents ‘has the current pandemic has impacted your income?’ try asking ‘how has the current pandemic impacted your income?’

There are numerous ways to improve the results of your online focus group. Perhaps the biggest benefit of online focus groups is that respondents get to attend from home, which allows you to get deeper, more appropriate responses from them. The possibilities here are endless, so it’s easy to build a positive interaction online. Check out the solutions itracks has to offer when it comes to running online qualitative research here.