My loyal readers know I have already spoken much about the joys and benefits of virtual focus groups, especially as a way to earn money online.
You can check out how to earn extra cash and, at the same time, contribute a positive impact to how your favorite brands, products, and services grow in the future.
To gain a deeper understanding on how these things work, allow me to talk about a more specific topic on the broad subject of focus groups.
Today, I’ll talk about virtual focus group best practices.
It seeks to help both market researchers and participants be aware of the ideal steps done in an efficient virtual focus group session.
What Are Virtual Focus Groups?
Virtual focus groups are primarily a market research method. Through these focus groups, researchers can gather qualitative data straight from the source.
The approach is effective, not only in reaching out to participants from various remote locations but more so when tackling sensitive topics.
What is the advantage of hearing from various people from different backgrounds, anyway?
More than anything, focus groups allow companies to have more than one perspective regarding a certain matter.
Focus group discussions, before the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, used to be done onsite, so some might think going the virtual route is not as effective.
However, there is evidence that virtual focus groups are just as effective. The key is making sure you do it meticulously and with enough planning.
Virtual Focus Group Best Practices
If you are wondering about just how effective are virtual focus groups, I prepared the list below to help you make up your mind.
Below are some of the best practices done by virtual focus groups and why it is slowly gaining traction among researchers.
1. Easing discussion about personal or sensitive topics through informed consent
Because of the remote nature of virtual focus groups, it is easier (compared to onsite discussions) to give opinions regarding personal or sensitive topics.
In fact, by contrast, focus groups done in person are often recorded through video.
Doing this might be uncomfortable for participants, especially those not accustomed to being filmed while expressing themselves.
There are also risks and problems regarding privacy, which may lessen a focus group participant’s eagerness to speak.
Therefore, this practice of virtual focus groups helps lessen distracted participation.
Also, it allows participants to use nicknames so that everyone maintains confidentiality.
Researchers can simply gather informed consent for this ahead of the discussion.
Here’s a tip: If you are a participant, take the time to read the paperwork that the researchers will send you.
Do not be afraid to ask questions if there is something you don’t fully understand.
2. Ensuring a convenient participation venue and time of discussion
Another best practice done in virtual focus groups is securing a common place (albeit virtual) and time for all of the participants.
Now more than ever, going virtual is a convenient setup that leads to more benefits.
These include an increased clarity of mind by being in a comfortable venue and the ability to recruit participants from various places.
As a result, market research companies are able to secure more comprehensive geographic ranges.
In fact, virtual focus groups encourage participants to be active members because they no longer have to be onsite, even if they come from a place of crisis.
It goes without saying that this lowers the operating costs that otherwise would have been allotted for data collection.
Doing this practice also lessens being in risky conditions and ensures that both researchers and participants undergo safety measures.
Here’s a tip: I cannot stress how disrupting technological issues are whenever they happen during virtual focus group discussions.
As such, it would be a good idea to ask your potential participants their preferred video conferencing platform.
You get plus points if you will be able to set a platform that most (if not all) of your participants are already familiar with using.
3. Engaging fewer participants
As mentioned earlier, having fewer participants in virtual focus groups results in them being able to speak more freely.
Selecting fewer participants helps the researchers and moderators engage everyone in the group.
Moreover, it allows researchers more flexibility to conduct the discussion.
Here’s a tip: The rule of thumb is to recruit half the number of participants who usually participate in onsite focus groups.
However, it has been observed that there are higher “no show” rates among virtual attendees.
This is why researchers recruit more participants initially, ensuring the ideal number is still achieved.
What Do You Need for an Online Focus Group?
What you’re going to need to conduct a successful online focus group will, of course, vary according to different factors such as your goals and your research topic.
For instance, some research topics can be quite sensitive and controversial. Hence, having a typical video conference probably wouldn’t cut it.
Meanwhile, if your goal includes taking note of the facial expressions of your participants, then you’ll certainly need more than just a voice call.
That said, most online focus groups will require three main things. These are:
A Set of Qualified Respondents
Picking a set of qualified respondents can be quite tedious without the proper system to do it. Fortunately, online recruitment screeners exist.
They can help you choose from a set of pre-screened and potentially qualified pool of participants.
You may also look for your own participants online. Participating in online forums dedicated to market research and participants can help.
There are also online communities on platforms such as Reddit and Facebook where those who are looking for focus group opportunities congregate.
Don’t limit yourself to those who are already interested (or have participated) in focus groups as well.
Depending on your market research’s target audience, you might want to check out their frequented platforms as well, if they have them.
For instance, if you’re looking for musicians, then Spotify, YouTube, and other similar channels can help you in your recruitment as well.
For more information, you can check out my previously published guide on how to recruit for focus group discussions.
A Skilled Research Team and Moderator
Your research team will translate the information gathered by the moderator into more easily-understandable information.
To get the most out of your participant’s answers, you’ll need moderators who know how to get the ball rolling in the right directions and a research team that can make sense of the raw data and turn it into projections.
It will also be ideal if you find a research team and moderator that specializes in your required topic.
Going back to my previous example, a facilitator who really knows his way around the music industry might be able to squeeze out more information from your participants than someone who specializes in, say, retail packaging.
On the other hand, a moderator specializing in packaging might not be able to get all the data you need in a market research that involves the technical developments of a piece of recording equipment that’s currently being developed (and nowhere near the packaging stage yet).
A Good Online Focus Group Software
Choosing the appropriate online platform for your focus group is crucial to your research’s success.
After all, the effectiveness of your moderator and research team will only be as good as the platform they will be using.
Below are some of the most popular software being used these days that you might want to consider for your next online focus group session.
A website conference software that is capable of full HD video and audio and packed with tons of features such as whiteboard, annotations, and fast response-solicitation functions, Zoom is one of the best choices for your focus group.
This software also has excellent security features that protect you and your attendees such as end-to-end data encryption, waiting room admission, and room locking.
Google Hangouts is a completely free conferencing software making it the best choice if you’re on a budget.
Account setting is also easy as it uses the ubiquitous Google email as its primary login requirement. It also allows you to chat with many users at once in real-time using connected mobile devices or computers.
Arguably the most famous teleconferencing application since its founding in 2003, Skype allows you to make calls across different devices.
Although it contains similar features to the two aforementioned platforms, what makes Skype unique is its ability to call a mobile phone or landline through a subscription or Skype Credit.
Taking part in virtual focus groups is one of those experiences that any person even remotely interested in market research should try even once.
In addition, these programs tend to compensate well, too.
Market researchers and participants should know about the virtual focus group best practices. This way, we can all enrich each other’s experiences within the community.
I hope you’ll also find the market research companies I have featured helpful in your search for a virtual focus group discussion to participate in.
Please don’t limit yourself to those I’ve shared, as there are other options out there.
Better yet, you can sign up for my newsletter if you want me to update you on these offers.
I am a father to a beautiful baby girl, a husband and a serial gigster 🙂 I live in Toronto, Canada. My claim to fame: I made thousands of dollars from focus groups and surveys over the last 15 years. Studied Marketing in Ryerson Univerity and worked in Marketing and Marketing Research for the last 14 years+ My mission is to educate others how to be successful with side hustles. You can contact my be email or on Facebook.