30 ways to master online qualitative research

Online qual is not just focus groups online

Online qual plays an important role in developing more mutual relationships, because it can connect people in more agile, context sensitive and media-rich ways.

To unlock the real value in online qualitative research you need to use the technology to get feedback that you couldn’t with face-to-face methods.

Unfortunately too many researchers simply replicate traditional forms of research online, like the live focus group (which has its limitations).

This is because industries abhor change and try to bend technologies to fit the status quo: It’s easier to copy the past than to reinvent the future.

Similarly, it’s all too easy to assume that online qual must be faster and cheaper than face to face. The truth is that this is not the case.

To do it justice, you have to respect the golden rule of online qualitative excellence, which is to invest enough time and money to run projects right.

This post is a summary of a series that I’ve written for the online qualitative platform Liveminds to promote the Masterminds online qual training course.

Its purpose is to help researchers master online qualitative research. If you’d like more information please get in touch tom@www.feelingmutual.com

30 ways to master online qualitative research

First, you have to appreciate what it can do.

  1. Understand its unique advantages

It is better at getting feedback that is convenient, in natural contexts, across diverse locations, in on-going, intimate and media rich forms

In order to make more profit you need reduce your direct costs while maximising your revenue.

  1. Debunk the ‘cheap and fast’ myth

Have the confidence to charge more by going into detail on how it involves more moderation and analysis time than face to face.

  1. Speak to less people, in more depth

Reduce direct costs while also getting the depth required to meet your objectives; it’s more about depth than quantity.

  1. Use the same participants in follow-ups

Capture the ideas that normally get lost after fieldwork and take a more iterative approach (without the same recruitment fee second time around)

  1. Use non-cash, intrinsic incentives

Instead of just rewarding participants financially, make research more fun, creative, sociable and meaningful while recognizing their contributions.

  1. Invest in a longer-term software license

If you run enough online qual projects over time, you could save on the license fee if you buy a long-term license at a discount.

  1. Explore less expensive ways to recruit

Consider Liveminds Connect to recruit via facebook. A lower cost and more real-world participant can be found.

  1. Limit the scope of what you get participants to do

Limit the tasks to reasonable levels (based on the incentive you’re paying people) and so free up consultancy time for other projects.

  1. Multi-task by doing your analysis while you moderate

Lift out key quotes as you moderate and build the story of your analysis iteratively. Save hours by not having to go back over content as much.

  1. Get participants to score reactions to stimulus

Getting people to score concepts provides a fast way to measure performance. This saves you analysis time and so increases profit.

  1. Use less expensive consultants to co-moderate

Working with a more junior researcher to keep the conversation going can release your time to ask the really important probes and do the analysis.

Before you get the chance to do online qual you have to first inspire your client with a creative proposal. . .

14. Use mobile video to illustrate emotion

Video can capture emotion better than written quotes. Ask them to reiterate previous text answers via mobile video to reduce the volume to analyse.

15. Bring research to life by coaching consumer correspondents

Explore their ‘real lives’ and reduce the research effect by asking them to interview their peers and commentate on their feelings and experiences.

16. Unite hard-to-reach people for a unique perspective 

Invite people from diverse backgrounds with special perspectives? For example, invite academics, journalists or super-fans.

17. Use real quotes to energise client workshops

 Paraphrased quotes lack authenticity and colour. Online qual gives you verbatims – without transcription – to inspire client workshops.

18. Be more agile with follow-up phases 

Take advantage of the relatively low cost in doing a second round of research and see how well the changes in concepts have been integrated.

Once a client has commissioned a project, you still need to carefully manage expectations to make it a success.

19. State how many questions you will be asking, in your proposal

Avoid being pressured into asking too many questions by stating in your proposal, the number that your costing allows for.

20. Set limits to how much participant time is available

Lay out how much of each participant’s time you have paid for. Make the trade-off between their time and the cost is clear.

  1. Outline the level of probing you have planned for

Have an upfront agreement on the level of probing that you intend to do. Your level needs to keep people engaged without being too demanding.

  1. Limit the level of stimulus you show people

Try and limit the number of different ideas you put in front of people by stating how many you have allowed for in your costing.

  1. Cap the number of videos you request

Avoid over-promising mobile video at the proposal stage, and set the terms clearly. This means stating how many videos you will be analysing.

Even if clients are inspired by your online qual, you need to get your colleagues on side first.

  1. Be disciplined and block the time out you needClearly explain to the team how long it takes to set up, probe, analyse and report, so they can block out designated chunks of time to do it right.
  2. Use more than one moderator

Use more than one moderator and allocate a set number of participants to each of them so they keep track of the individual narratives across answers.

  1. Encourage senior moderators to get their hands dirty

Bring them in at the analysis stage so they see the depth and richness of feedback and become more open to its potential (and consultancy required).

Finally, you need to package online qual in ways that reinforces your agency’s belief and proposition. Here’s some ideas on how to do that.

  1. Use online qual to offer more real research

Consider how online qual gets you closer to actual behaviour by giving people a more natural and contextually sensitive way to provide feedback.

  1. Frame online qual as providing better client access

Online qual can take clients closer to their customers by removing the potentially intimidating (and time-consuming) experience of face to face.

  1. Package online qual to be multi-media story-tellers

An auto-ethnographic video of someone in their natural environment can create a more vivid impression of who they are than any text-based quote.

  1. Access hard to find expert-consumers

Online qual can give you a far more flexible way to speak with specialist groups, like academics, super-fans and experts. The agile co-creators:

If you’re interested in taking part in Masterminds training in online and mobile qualitative research, feel free to get in touch at tom@www.feelingmutual.com