Bulletin board focus groups
A bulletin board focus group is an online discussion forum to which participants are invited to discuss a specific topic. The group typically opens at a specified date and time and is kept open for 2-4 days. During that time the moderator poses questions to the group from a prepared discussion guide and interacts with the participants by probing and/or responding to their comments. The bulletin board focus group offers the following benefits:
- Participants can log-in and participate at their leisure during the extended group discussion.
- It is possible to cover a broad geographic reach.
- The participants can discuss the subject in-depth and dedicate as much time as they need to formulate their responses.
- The client can participate by viewing the discussion and sending feedback to the moderator through a virtual viewing room.
- The bulletin board virtual facility allows sharing of concepts, websites, video, and audio, or any visual that the client may need to present for feedback.
- It saves money in travel related costs.
Bulletin board focus groups are recommended for the following situations:
- Very sensitive subjects that become too emotional to discuss in an in-person group (See below)
- Research with very busy executives or physicians that are difficult or impossible to schedule as a traditional focus group.
- Research with respondents that are not from the same geographic location.
- Worldwide studies that involve multi-country participation.
The first time we did a bulletin board group was in 1999 for a project I was conducting with terminally ill cancer patients. The project started as traditional focus groups in New York. Cancer is one of those subjects that continues to be taboo in the Latino community. Everyone fears cancer and nobody wants to talk about it. This is even the case within families where someone has the disease. What I realized 10 minutes into my first in-person group was that my participants were for the very first time given permission to talk about their condition. By the end of the introduction the respondents had gone around the table and commented on their suffering with cancer. Everyone was crying (including me). I consulted with the client and we decided to forget about our discussion guide. I spent the rest of the group making sure that everyone was okay before sending them home. The next day we switched the methodology to bulletin board groups and we were very successful in gathering the opinions because the patients were better able to control their emotions and express themselves in writing. And they wrote a lot! We were all very pleased with the results and I was sold on the methodology. Ricardo A. López