MROCs (mobile research online communities) including bulletin boards, platforms and apps have undoubtedly changed the face of qualitative research. But are we using the technology available to us in the best way possible? Based on our experience of online qualitative research with both HCPs and patients, we’ve developed our top tips on delivering a top notch online project.
1: Design for the respondent, not for the tech
Online platforms have progressed rapidly, providing numerous high tech options for tasks and data collection. But try not to be drawn into the mirage that complexity correlates with efficiency. Have you really thought about who you are engaging and about their abilities and preferences? You want to maximise the information respondents provide, not scare them away altogether.
What tasks will they be able and comfortable completing? Can they understand the instructions given? (stand on your head, say cheese and record a video of yourself decanting your pills into a box may not yield the best understanding of how hypertension medication is managed at home for example). Consider providing alternatives, for example sharing photos, text or an audio description rather than video can all help empower respondents to share in a way that best suits them.
2: It’s not a face-to-face interview, so don’t design it as such
Think about the questions you want to ask, but make it simple. Online communities and bulletin boards are often self-perpetuating, so keep questions short and concise and manage your expectations of the number of questions you will be able to ask in a session. Time them to appear across the session to stimulate new strands of conversation, rather than sharing all questions at once and allow time for conversations to mature – the joy of online is the rich self-generated content, try not to stifle it.
3: Remember that behind screens are people – rapport and social cues are just as important as in traditional research
Building rapport with respondents garners trust. Moderators should be introduced by name (and picture!). They will need to explain what their role is and actively participate in the conversation, probing and encouraging where appropriate. Make participants feel comfortable by using social cues from the real world – Facebook style likes and emojis for example.
4: Recognise that participation can have wider implications than the research objectives
Taking part in online forums can often be seen as a type of therapy or support – particularly for patients. Be aware that they may use the opportunities to discuss their condition in detail and offer advice and support to one another. This is often seen as a benefit for patients but be sure to have plans in place for how to handle this and ensure that no harm comes to participants.
5: To observe or not to observe, that is the question
One of the key selling points of an online community is the ability for clients to logon and see the insights unfolding. Whilst this is a strong benefit for the client, their involvement needs to be explained to participants and may impact how honest and open people may be. Conversations need to be had about the importance of seeing the findings emerge versus the impact their presence could have on the outputs achieved.
6: Have respect for the respondents – and think GDPR
It is vital to protect the responsibilities rights and anonymity. In the modern day, people are used to sharing lots of personal information online. Taking part in an online community can be seen as just another platform to share their information, either intentionally or by accident.
It is important to always consider the impact any task or request may have on the types of information respondents may share. For example, ask them for a screen name instead of their actual name. If asking for an image to use alongside the screen name make it clear what the image is for and who will see it. When asking to share documents respondents may inadvertently share personal details – try and protect them.
It is also vital to ensure consents with regard to information shared in the research are clear and well documented. Adelphi Research UK are experts in GDPR with a dedicated team linked closely with BHBIA who can offer more guidance on any concerns you may have with compliance.
For more information on how online qualitative research could help shape your brand strategy, or to hear about Adelphi’s bespoke offering through the NET™ community platform, get in touch with our illuminate team by emailing email@example.com