Online qual research platforms like Liveminds enable you to engage in ongoing conversations with people, getting closer to them for longer.
- Can respond in their time and place, giving you fresher, truer opinions
- Have an equal voice, giving you a more balanced perspective
- Are now often more comfortable and open when writing than speaking
Our platform is built to make qual research effortless. Even so, you can’t take people’s engagement for granted.
So we wanted to share some key tips, from 5 years of running online qual projects, to ensure you get the most from the participants in your future research projects.
CC Image courtesy of Bonnie Natko on Flickr.
Don’t scrimp on recruitment and incentives
Good recruitment is as important online and on mobile as it is in face-to-face research, if not more so. Though there are some cost savings to be made in travel expenses, people’s time is money, however they spend it.
People recruited from panels who are used to doing quick responses for small incentives, are much more likely to give short, quick fire responses and not engage fully in conversation. So use recruiters you trust, be clear to participants what they need to do to earn their incentive, and offer a bonus prize to the best one/s. You will reap the rewards.
Set clear expectations
People value clear instructions upfront. Inform recruiters how often they will need to log in, how much time they will need to spend on the project, and broadly what they will need to do. It’s important they agree to this upfront, so when you start, people know they are being treated fairly. Telling people that you expect 30 minutes of their time, and going back on that deal by adding in extra tasks or probing too much, will turn people off and create a bad atmosphere. We find 30 minutes a day to be the right amount in a short term study, though you can push this up to 45 minutes with the right structure in place.
First impressions count. Start the project with a question where they tell you (and each other) about themselves and show an interest in their responses. Reply personally to each of them – establishing a good rapport with participants early on will go a long way.
A great technique is to post a video introducing yourself, which helps them get to know you and feel comfortable with you.
Be friendly and personal, professional but not corporate and this will break down barriers quickly.
Lead by example
Sometimes, the people in your group will naturally start to engage with each other, especially if they are talking about a subject that they are passionate about. Other times, it won’t come so easily. So make sure you are a great host, as if you holding a party in your home – mingle with your guests, give each of them your attention, especially at the start. Talk to everyone, make connections and spark up conversations. This will inspire others to do the same.
If you want to see people discussing a topic between themselves, let them know, and put this in your instructions. Don’t let them think it’s ok to respond and just move on. This will get them reading other people’s comments, giving them the trigger they need to get involved in conversations.
Let people know when they are doing well – thank them when they respond to other people. Tell them they have made an interesting point. Politely let people know who aren’t getting involved that they should. Be positive but clear.
Like having a good band at a party, giving people an interesting shared experience to talk about, helps create connections and get the conversation flowing. So use relevant imagery and videos, as a tool for engagement.
Vary the method
Don’t always stick to the same format, especially in longer term projects. Give people different types of task, mix up the groups in which they are discussing issues. One week have a group discussion, the next set them a task to take photos on their mobile phone. Next you could do some more in depth 1 to 1s, then ask them to tell a story in a video – the only limit is your imagination!
Furthermore, Liveminds enables you to switch seamlessly from one type to the next, whilst staying in the context of the subject matter.
Don’t demand more than expected
Yes, it’s important for you to talk to your participants. However, make sure you stay aware of how much time your probes will be adding to their involvement and don’t push them too hard. Asking too many questions is a common mistake in first time online moderators.
Also, be aware of the time it takes to do media based tasks – taking a video involves locating their equipment, getting the light and sound right, testing to make sure it is, thinking through what they want to say, doing the recording, watching it to make sure they are happy with it, often re-recording it as they grow comfortable with doing it and then finally uploading it.
Video should be the only or last task of the day so that they can click upload, leave it and get on with their day.
A 1 minute video shot on an iPhone 4, for instance, will take roughly half an hour to upload on a standard 8mb home broadband connection.
Show your gratitude
It’s always nice to end your project with a thank you for the time and effort that people have given. Ask for feedback, learn from your participants and end on a high.
Pay on time
Finally, insist that your recruiters pay them when they should! It would be such a shame to lose the warm glow of a great project, by not delivering on that important promise. If you are doing a long term study and making payments as you go, this becomes even more important to keep their trust throughout.
What tips do you have for engaging with your participants online? Please add your comments below – we’d love to hear your experiences and share them with others wanting to learn.