How Online Communities Flatten Time, Space & Embarrassment


Don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot to love about in-person focus groups. Body language, spontaneous side conversations, bowlfuls of M&Ms….

But to go deep, and give participants maximum time and space (from the comfort of their own homes) to be real, honest, and vulnerable? Well, you can’t beat an online community, like the one we conducted in March to study the effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having on Americans.

7 reasons online research communities are the absolute best:

• Geographic spread: You can gather a group of people — regardless of their personal mobility or social distancing measures — from all over the country (or world!), from NYC to the most rural part of Montana. They just need a computer or smartphone.

• High articulation: Some people are talkers. Some people are writers. Some people like to make collages. Online communities give them all a way to shine, regardless of shyness, language difficulties, or awkwardness of the topic. (See: our online community about bladder leakage.)

• Cool tools: besides video, there are different activities, prompts, and visual aids that cultivate deep emotional states, bringing out richer responses—and keeping things interesting for participants.

• Engaged participation: Respondents can contribute to the study on their own time, and at their own pace, so they’re more likely to provide more data.

• No time crunch: In a two-hour focus group, there’s only so much speaking time that any one person can get. In a three-day online study, people can go on for as long as they want, write a thousand words, or record ten minutes of video for every question. Plus, with time to digest the answers and think, we can come up with meaningful ways to dig deep and advance each and every respondent’s discussion.

• Flexibility: We have done these with employees, teens, general consumer groups, specific patient groups…I could go on and on! They can last for 3 days (so you can hear from people, in their own words, quickly) or 3 weeks (which can be great if your creative or product teams want ongoing feedback).

And that’s just off the top of my head! Online communities are awesome, and we have several going on right now with both consumer and professional audiences.

Contact Us to talk about how an online community can help you get creative, thoughtful responses from people while they (and you) are stuck at home!

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Founder of Southpaw Insights