An online survey doesn’t always give you the depth of insight you might get from sitting down and having a two-way conversation with a person from your target audience. There is no doubt that online surveys are an easy way of facilitating a one-way question and answer session with many people at the same time, but it does require you first to craft one side of the conversation. There is a degree of guesswork involved because each question requires you to anticipate a response. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it does require you to have a good grasp of the intended audience and more importantly the objectives of you survey.
Online surveys allow one way or asynchronous method of insight collection. Surveys are simply not built, or intended to facilitate two-way communication and engagement. Online surveys capture immediate responses and reactions to structured questions, but they do not promote the same level of discovery generated from a two-way (synchronous) post and answer discussion.
Website and mobile survey environments train people to respond to questions according to a predefined response pattern, which means how the questions are structured and how they flow from one question to the next. In most cases, this tends to be short and sharp answer options framed by the question format. Surveys can also include open-ended text-based questions, where survey respondents type out a verbatim answer based on their interpretation of the question. People will often answer open text questions based on what they deem a ‘reasonable’ and ‘expected’ effort; this is why responses can range from a few words to a never ending paragraph. It can be a hit and miss exercise to get a text response which is meaningful and useful. The degree of insight obtained from an online survey is attributed to how much the person who is completing the survey understands the instructions as well as the questions. Taking a traditional approach to survey design to collect open ended and text-based responses doesn’t always yield the answers you need.
However, it doesn’t mean you can’t create a survey that combines new methods to capture meaningful qualitative insight. What if after reviewing the survey responses you realise it would have been great to ask the follow-up question or clarify some of the detailed verbatim comments. What if you could run your surveys and then select a sample of people whom meet a certain demographic or behavioural criteria and then immediately invite them to engage with you in a two-way online discussion. You might want an opportunity to dive deeper into the topic.
A group discussion or extended over time interview at the end of a survey is a way of getting down to the nitty-gritty, to understand what is driving or motivating the answers to your questions. It is a way of adding context and discovery to what would be a survey to confirm or dispute what you already know. Think of it as a Facebook discussion at the end of the survey, where people have the option to jump into a short community style discussion to respond to open-ended topic questions and moderator prompts. A structured discussion at the tail end of the survey is a real-time engagement enabler and a method of facilitating deep-dive insight discovery.
So how does a tail-end online survey discussion work?
At the end of the survey, you create a question for those who you would like to offer the opportunity to participate in a short discussion group. You can use your chosen survey tool to qualify survey participants based on a set of characteristics – how they answer a set of particular questions. These individuals are then routed based on a set of conditions and are sent to a secure GroupQuality discussion registration page, where participants register for their login details. Participants are sent an email with the unique and secure website link and their username and password. There is also an opportunity to pass across a participant identifier; this could be some data from the survey tool to identify the individual against their survey results. The way of doing this would look something like this:
discussionlink.com/my-discussion-registration-link/?source=[your unique survey identifier goes here] this information is then passed into the participant’s details.
How to maximise discussion engagement from the beginning:
Once logged into the group, participants should be presented with a clear welcome and introduction. It is important to make sure your introduction covers the following:
- Introduce the moderator (welcome message) – so they know it is a real person!
- What to do – don’t assume they will know why they are there, it maybe they were attracted by the carrot.
- Make it clear what is in it for them – what extra incentive are you going to provide participants for going above and beyond the survey.
- The group rules and expectation – make it clear you do not accept one-word answers and it will not result in the incentive payment (of course be polite about it).
- Provide a contact person or email if participants have any questions.
Participants will also need some discussion topics which they can complete. You need to be ready for immediate engagement and be prepared to respond to participant questions and comments – after all, this is a two-way discussion. If you are not comfortable moderating the online discussion, find someone who is, but you will be surprised how easy it can be.
Keep your topic questions to a minimum, remember they are coming into your discussion after completing a survey, so you do not want to inundate them with lots of text. Leave lengthy groups for a standalone project. What we are trying to do here is replace the open-ended questions you might have included in a survey with topic questions for discussion.
Discussion participation and survey reward
People will be motivated by reward, time, opportunity and subject matter:
- Reward being how much incentive they will receive for participating which can be confidently set as a $1 per minute of their time.
- Time being directly related to the reward level and commitment required to complete the project.
- Opportunity to be part of something special and exclusive.
- Subject influencing the level of interest, passion and motivation to express their opinions on the topic.
Just because participants completed the survey and agreed to take part in the discussion doesn’t mean they will so make sure you have contingency plans and the best way to mitigate any drop out is to invite over by 30%.
Participants are people, not numbers, with surveys we tend to think about responses to surveys as data, which is entirely understandable considering you just see the quantitative results. The difference with online qualitative is that you are one step closer to the individual and is the exact reason why this kind of engagement can deliver insights not obtainable in surveys alone!
If you would like to know more about setting up this kind of discussion please review the tutorial setting up a discussion intercept link >>.
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This article first appeared @ groupquality.com/blog