Online focus groups with the young

27Feb07

BrainReactions has an interesting post on the use of online focus groups while doing research on the young. Online focus groups – in this case, more of a panel of young people who will rgularly participate in research conducted online and save the rest of the world from watching the truly awful ads that somehow get past conventional research testing! Market researchers and clients have always been sceptical about the use of the internet as a medium for conducting research – the most common concern being that of control. That said, who is to say we researchers are in any amount of control over focus groups conducted offline!

Another concern, which I am more likely to agree with, is that the researcher misses out vital clues from repsondents by way of their facial expressions and body language. This would be especially important incommunication research, with ads that aim to create interest as a first step towards selling. The use of video streaming would lessen this handicap to a large extent; allowing for good bandwidth, it would be the equivalent of watching a focus group on the CCTV as is common in India – where the legendary one-way mirror does not exist. (As an aisde, here is an interesting account of the use of online focus groups with lots of information on how and why).

However, what is interesting with regard to the propostion put forward on BrainReactions is the method of selecting respondents to be part of the panel or group. The target repsondent is anyway young, and likely to be found lurking at various places on the internet, and needless to say, comfortable with the medium.

Marketing firms should be making use of the internet to put together focus groups who watch the ad campaigns via streaming video or evaluate print ads on some website. By mining the data on social websites like Facebook and MySpace, companies could identify individuals that they want to be part of the focus group and invites could be sent to those individuals with a promise of compensation for participating.

Apart from recruiting for focus groups, I am certain there is anyway loads of information of interest on such social networking sites to marketers waiting to be explored and understood. Take the most recent success story in India – a girl gang blog launched by popular shampoo brand Sunsilk. A friend tells me that her teenager daughter is close to addicted to the site and cannot bear to be away from it for even minutes. I peeped in there briefly (on an earlier visit, the bubblegum pinks screaming on the page put me away instantly!) – at last count there are 540376 members. Imagine that – some kind of “everything you always wanted to know about teenage girls, but didn’t know where to look“. It would make so much sense for marketers and more importantly, market research practitioners to start mining data from such sites – and use them, if not as complete research studies, as starting points for further research.

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One Response to “Online focus groups with the young”

  1. Been in a youth training in Latvia two months ago, thought about doing something like this online but i just don’t have the time, but the idea itself is great. All the youth trainings i’ve been too are really usefull and fun.



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