Remember the old school bulletin board from your time as a student: the wide expanse of cork that displayed a variety of artwork, information and advertisements? The bulletin board of the past served as an exhibit; a catalyst for discussion; a means to broadcast activities. It was the hub of information gathering and sharing.
Today’s market research world has taken the purpose of the traditional bulletin board and reworked it for the 21st century. Online bulletin board research is a qualitative approach that gathers a virtual assembly of people in order to facilitate data production through interactive discussion among participants and a moderator. Whereas members of an online focus group sign in together at a specific time, bulletin board research respondents visit a site on their own time over a course of several days. They can read discussion transcripts, respond to questions, post insights and retrieve or send files. It’s as if they are walking in and out of a classroom, pinning and retrieving items from a bulletin board as they go.
Bulletin board research is especially advantageous when companies need to gather opinions from participants across a wide geographic area or with varying levels of availability. Allowing bulletin board members the ability to access a site continuously for two-to-three days means that issues like time zones, remote locations, and work schedules don’t influence participation. Respondents can sign in and reply to each other and the moderator when it’s convenient, which makes involvement easier and more cost-effective.
Online bulletin boards also offer multiple levels of interaction. Moderators can drive conversation, point participants to issues, draw out those who less responsive, and offer opportunities for breakout group or individual discussion. Participants can share experiences and advance opportunities to collaborate and learn, as well as feed off one another’s engagement. It can be very similar to the synergy created in face-to-face focus groups. But unlike face-to-face focus groups, bulletin board research can provide anonymity, which is beneficial when dealing with sensitive topics or participants who might be pressured by or embarrassed in front of peers.
In short, bulletin board research is a valid qualitative research method. But like all methods, it’s not universally relevant (or even feasible to use) in every situation. Communications for Research (CFR) can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of using bulletin boards in your next market research campaign. Contact us to speak with our co-CEO Colson Steber who can help you determine if online bulletin boards will work for your business’ market research.
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