In face-to-face qualitative research you have a captive audience. Once people sit down, they aren’t going anywhere (although, I did once have a cheeky chap go to the toilet never to return – he may still be there). This is not the case in online qual as participants can drop out at any point. To keep them engaged and inspired you have to go the extra mile.
Here are ten ways to keep people interested:
1. Be nice
Not that you’d ever be nasty, but as anyone who’s misread the tone of an email or text will tell you, written words can come across as blunt or cold. Make the effort to thank every single person on day one of the project and be polite and courteous throughout.
2. Be yourself
Traditional qual research techniques suggest moderators should be neutral and not reveal much about who they are. I’ve found that in online qual the project benefits if you open up a little. Be authentic and personable, whilst remaining professional, as it encourages people to talk to you.
3. Give and you shall receive
If you do a warm-up, ask respondents to say something about who they are, and why not share something about yourself too? The more you give, the more you’ll get in return. Keep probing and by showing an interest in people’s answers, they’ll be motivated to give you more.
4. Build it up
Respondents are not only motivated by money;, they like to feel important and that they’re making a difference. Emphasise how valuable their contributions are to your client. Make sure people feel they are being listened to by responding to them regularly.
5. Build them up
Participants can worry that they’re not giving you what you need. Be sure to build up their confidence by reassuring them that they’re doing a great job and are on track (assuming that they are).
6. Encourage discussion
Qual research is way more fun, and therefore motivating, if people get on with each other. Create space for people to interact and encourage them to comment on what other respondents are saying. Actively asking them to get involved in discussions in the introduction and in your probes helps make this happen.
7. Unleash their creativity
People love to express themselves, so give them a platform to be creative. For example, ask for a hand-drawn picture of how they feel about the brand or category. This also creates compelling visuals for the debrief.
8. Reward good work
As you moderate and come across star participants, who give you lots of detail and emotional insight, make it clear that that’s what you’re after. Openly thank them for putting in so much effort encourages others to raise their game and get some love.
9. Break down incentives
Sometimes it can be more motivating to break tasks down into stages. Respondents will feel more motivated to do the video or next task knowing that they’ve just earned another £10 for doing so.
10. Offer a prize for insightfulness
You can tap into competitive instincts by awarding an additional prize to the most insightful participants. You’d be surprised how much extra value you can get for a relatively small cash investment.
In a nutshell, to get more value from participants you need to demonstrate that you really value them. Being sociable, authentic and warm will result in deeper engagement and higher quality insights.