A good online moderator will always ensure they build a rapport with their participants, largely because they know that a good rapport is key to getting more information and ultimately more meaningful insight from each participant.
The nature of asynchronous online research makes building a good rapport more challenging than in traditional research methods. The face to face social interactions are removed and one cannot rely on a friendly smile or shared laugh to ‘warm’ participants.
However, a good rapport is easily established when a few simple steps are taken.
Add a photo – Add a photo to your researcher profile and encourage other researchers and participants to do the same. This adds colour to the project and means everyone can put a face to a name, it makes the social interaction more ‘real’. The photos can also be used in your project debrief to show your client their audience, which is a great bonus.
Have an ice-breaker – Add an ice-breaker question to introduce everyone too each other and ease them into the research process. Write a little bit about yourself and your role throughout the project and ask participants to talk about who they are, what they enjoy and who’s at home, etc. This is a nice opportunity to get participants feeling comfortable and familiar with both the research team/client and other participants.
Be prompt – Try and ensure one of the research team is available to moderate the project reasonable promptly. Quick replies illustrate that you are keen to read participant posts and interested in what they have to say. It allows for a more fluid conversation, which will feel more natural.
Be personable – Talk to participants as though you are talking to a friend or colleague. Avoid using corporate language as participants want to feel as through they are talking to a person rather than a business organisation.