Don't Make This Mistake With Your Next Bulletin Board Focus Group

When we talked to online qualitative research veteran Liz Van Patten of Consumer Advisory Panels last week about tips for engaging a bulletin board focus group, she brought up a great point that we thought deserved its very own post–the biggest mistake beginner online moderators make when conducting a bulletin board focus group.
(Drum roll, please…)
They ask too many questions!
If you recruit participants based on a 30-45 minute time commitment each day, you have to really deliver on that promise,” Liz says. Otherwise, she says, you can expect engagement, participation and ultimately your results to suffer. Plus, that negative experience can spread by word of mouth, thus making recruitment more of a challenge for future projects. “It’s really about earning the participants’ trust by being truthful with them,” she explains. “If they feel they can trust the moderator and the process they will be more willing to open up and share their thoughts and feelings, which is the moderator’s goal.”
So how do you know how many questions you can ask in your bulletin board focus group? “It comes down to the math,” says Liz, who explains that you should allow 2-3 minutes to respond to the average online question–3-4 minutes (or more) if you want them to read and react to other participants. For a 30-45 minute daily time commitment, that works out to 10-12 questions each day. To make sure you’re on target, consider doing a run-through of the board yourself as you develop the discussion guide.
When creating your discussion guide, aim for a reasonable number of questions based on the time commitment you’ve asked for. If you find that you’re going over, consider combining repetitive questions or rethinking questions to be broader in scope. Liz also suggests asking a more general opening question and following up throughout the day with specific probes.

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