How to Run an Online Focus Group

A focus group is a great marketing research tool for small businesses, as it helps you gather feedback from your customers (or potential customers). However, it can often be challenging to convince people to set aside time in their busy schedules to attend an in-person event, which is why online focus groups are growing in popularity. Here’s why an online event could be the perfect fit for you.

The benefits of online focus groups

Research in the journal F1000 Research found that an online focus group is comparable to in-person groups when it comes to the data obtained through the group and the quality of conversations that happened. Because of this, an online focus group could be the best way to go if your customers are spread out across a wide geographic area.

Why might you want to hold a focus group? Maybe you’re launching a new product and want to gauge reactions to its design, or perhaps you’re designing a marketing campaign and want to assess its appeal. Whatever the reason, a focus group can help you get real insights from the people you’re targeting.

According to The Balance, people are often more candid in focus groups than they would be one-on-one, so you can get a better idea of the perception people have about you, your business, and your services. In addition, online focus groups are less time-consuming and more convenient.

How to conduct a focus group online

If you want to hold an online focus group for your business, here are the steps you should take to ensure it’s successful.

Recruit participants

The first and arguably most challenging step of hosting a focus group is finding participants. Large corporations often outsource this task to recruitment agencies, but this might not be in the budget for small companies.

First, you’ll want to decide on a target demographic. Do you want input from existing customers or those unfamiliar with your business? Do you have a preference of gender or age? Do you want people who live locally?

If you’re looking to survey your existing customers, take advantage of your email list and social media platforms. You can reach non-customers via boosted social posts. Promoted posts on Facebook and other social platforms allow you to select a specific target market based on age, location, interests, and more.

Keep in mind you may need to provide an incentive for participation. People will be much more willing to join in if you offer a small cash reward or gift card.

Choose a platform

Next, you’ll need to choose a platform to host your online focus group. There are programs that are designed to facilitate remote discussions such as FocusGroupIt, which even offers a free plan if you have 10 or fewer participants.

However, you can also use free tools such as Facebook, where you can create a private or secret group or an online forum or chat room.

Moderate the discussion

Now it’s your job to lead the online discussion, just like you would in a face-to-face group. Take time to carefully hone open-ended questions about your topic and try to have back-up queries ready in case people don’t respond well to the first iteration.

Monitor participants throughout the discussion, and do your best to keep them on track. If you find that people are focusing solely on one question or arguing among themselves, you might consider turning off commenting on that post.

When you use these steps to host an online focus group, you’ll be able to gather valuable marketing insights that will help you to grow and improve your business.

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Camryn Rabideau

Camryn Rabideau is freelance writer specializing in digital lifestyle content, ranging from pop culture to smart home technology. Camryn has contributed to popular media sites such as InStyle, Taste of Home, Martha Stewart, Food52, USA Today, The Spruce and more.

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