Sometimes in-person focus groups are not possible if a project involves a highly targeted audience or the audience is geographically scattered. In these cases, we often conduct focus groups on the Internet either via a bulletin board online discussion, real-time instant messaging, or webcam.
This methodology allows respondents from around the country to log into a bulletin board discussion group at different times during the day that are convenient to them to answer questions posted by a moderator while reading and responding to other participants’ posts. It tends to be more of an online community for participants. Respondents can also view printed materials, advertising and animatics online for evaluation. All of the discussion is visible on-screen to the moderator, the participants, and the clients. These discussion groups have roughly 10-15 respondents per board and take place over a period of time – typically 3-5 days – with respondents participating twice each day.
Some advantages to using bulletin board discussion groups:
- The longer timeframe provides more in-depth and detailed responses;
- Respondents are participating for 3-5 days for an hour a day;
- One online bulletin board discussion equates to the same amount of information as yielded by roughly three in-person traditional focus groups;
- The longer timeframe allows us to present stimuli, gather feedback, refine concepts and re-present to the same group of respondents;
- Participants have time to reflect, re-visit and add new thoughts; and,
- Respondents do not feel time pressures and can read and post at their convenience, providing more thoughtful information and feedback.
If desired, we also have the capability to conduct bulletin boards accessible through respondents’ smartphones. This feature allows participants to post messages, pictures and videos to the bulletin board from anywhere.
Clients are able to follow the conversation thread online at their convenience and interact with the moderator over the course of the session to maximize learning opportunities.
Just like in a traditional focus group facility, bulletin board discussion groups have a virtual backroom that allows for moderator and client interaction. Respondents are not able to see any of the activity that occurs in the virtual back room.
Online bulletin board groups are used when a traditional focus group is not feasible due to disparity of geographic locations, or because of a need for anonymity, or because of a very highly targeted respondent type. They also work well with executive level respondents.
This methodology is also useful when testing media, websites and other stimuli. Since respondents are able to review the materials at their convenience, it gives respondents time to explore websites and read longer messaging statements that we can typically cover in a focus group format.