Horse 1200

Use video to lead your horses to water

Hugh Carling

Hugh Carling


Co-founder of Liveminds. I love to bring like-minded people together. Whether that's growing businesses, running online communities, staging events or captaining my village cricket team, nothing makes me happier than seeing people with a shared passion, coming together and making the most of it.

Everyday we are confronted with a massive amount of information – emails and text messages and gas bills and Chinese takeaway menus and movie posters and newspaper articles – right down to the painted signs warning us to look left or right before stepping off the kerb on every major intersection in London.

Words are everywhere.

study published in the journal Science found that “there is now 295 exabytes of data floating around the world – that’s 29,500,000,000,000,000,000,000 pieces of information.” (Yes, that’s a number with 20 zeroes in it.) On average, we consume about 100,000 words a day. That’s a lot of words to digest in a single day.

So, how do we deal with this enormous amount of data? How do we cut through the noise to get our point across, particularly when attempting to convey complex ideas?

Richard L. Daft’s media richness theory states that ‘the more ambiguous and uncertain a task is, the richer the format of media that suits it’. In other words, visual aids help people better digest information compared to the written word.

Perhaps this is why we are seeing more researchers using video to introduce projects and tasks in online research communities. Using video yourself not only encourages your participants to do the same, it also brings your research to life.

Connect with your participants

Video gives a more human dimension to your research and infuses your tasks with personality. Personality goes a long way. It also helps build a rapport with your participants by putting a face to your name, which in turn, instills trust. Trust and engagement are the pillars of online qualitative research.

Convey complex information more clearly

It’s sometimes difficult to demonstrate concepts through the written word. You can describe the texture and colour and shape of snow to someone who lives in the middle of the Sahara but until you show them snow, they’ll never clearly understand what you mean.

For example, I think IKEA finally caught on that their minimalist assembly instruction booklets were giving consumers strife. If you’ve ever tried to assemble something more complicated than a bookshelf, you know what I mean. That’s why they created easy-to-follow assembly videos of actual human beings putting stuff together (so you’re not left with that one random bolt at the end of it all.)

When it comes to explaining complex tasks, video is often better suited than the written word. Again, don’t tell your participants what to do and hope they grasp the meaning of your words.

Cut through the noise

Your participants are overloaded with information – the equivalent of 174 newspapers worth of data every day – just like you. If you hide one little gem of crucial information deep inside a long-winded question, you risk losing them. A well thought out video, on the other hand, only asks your participants to sit back for a minute whilst you deliver the information directly to them.

Show them the way

When you want to get brilliant videos from your participants, we find it’s really helpful, right from the start of the project, to give clear instructions on what you expect from them. Leading by example is the best way – recording a video of yourself and illustrating the kind of quality you are looking for works really well. Some key things to suggest are video length (we’d recommend 1 minute max), the angle you’d like, getting the lighting and sound right, and to watch it before submitting it.

Lead by example

All I’m saying is if Kevin Costner hadn’t built the field of dreams, Shoeless Joe would still be in the cornfield and the 80s simply wouldn’t have ended on such a high metaphorical note.

Open up your research field to players that might otherwise choose to be wallflowers on your panel. Channel your inner Costner. Bring out the best in your participants. Lead by example and they will follow.

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