How Facebook is befriending qualitative researchers

Tom Woodnutt

Tom Woodnutt

Feeling Mutual

Tom Woodnutt is Founder of Feeling Mutual, the agile online and mobile qualitative research specialists. He helps clients and agencies run global studies and offers training in the space. Tom has been a Digital Skills trainer for the Association of Qualitative Researchers (AQR) and is a regular speaker at industry conferences, including the MRS, MRMW and IleX.

A recurring conversation I’ve had with clients over the last few years starts with the question ‘if everyone’s on Facebook, why don’t we just run research communities within it?’

In all that time, I’ve always pushed back and argued in favour of using specialist online qualitative or community software instead. However, things are about to change and Facebook could soon become an online qualitative researcher’s best friend.

Liveminds gives you the best of both worlds: Facebook for engagement and the online qual platform for bespoke research. This is because the Liveminds Facebook app builds a direct bridge between Facebook (where you set up and manage a private community group) and Liveminds (where you take people off to bespoke research projects).

What was wrong with using Facebook for qual research?

In the past, my reasons for rejecting Facebook for online qualitative research communities were to do with losing control. Facebook doesn’t have the functionality that allows you to decide who sees what and when. So it takes away the power of asking questions in private or in groups. You also have less control over how people are exposed stimulus and don’t have all the useful management features like scheduling questions in advance and targeting them to particular segments. However, Liveminds takes those concerns away by integrating an online qual interface into a user’s Facebook experience.

This makes community management less labour intensive. Firstly, because participants’ familiarity with Facebook means they are used to engaging with content within it. This means you shouldn’t need as much of a financial incentive to get them there in the first place and there’s a lower psychological barrier to participation. Secondly, it means you don’t have to pay as much software license costs because more time is spent on what is essentially a free platform. And thirdly, (just as those canny clients realised all those years ago!) it’s where people are naturally spending their time, so it makes sense to go to them, rather than expect them to come to you.

Building a bridge between Facebook and specialist research software is natural progression for the industry as we realise that in the era of engagement, you have to go to the people and inspire them on their terms.

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