How to use Online Bulletin Boards (OBBs) in your market research

22 Sep 2021
Young woman working on online bulletin board on her laptop at home

With agile market research on the rise, and a significant trend towards research methodologies that can be used remotely, interest in Online Bulletin Boards (OBBs) has soared in 2020. Read our post about how you can use OBBs to obtain rich insights from your participants and how FieldworkHub can help you integrate them into your market research practice today. 

What is an Online Bulletin Boards (OBB)?

Online bulletin board (OBB) research is a qualitative approach that gathers a virtual assembly of participants and a moderator to gather insights on topics of interest through interactive discussion.   

Unlike a focus group, an OBB will typically last for several days, during which time participants are dipping in and out as their schedule permits. It’s a place for participants and moderators to interact and delve deep into various topics of interest over an extended period. Participants are encouraged to elaborate on ideas, comment and express opinions as best they can, and are often invited to include supporting material in the form of media uploads to help illustrate their thoughts; this helps fuel further discussion with the moderator, and within the group if the material is shared. The OBB may start as a group discussion but later split off into more personal one-one-one interactions as it progresses and research evolves. 

Activities and participation typically involve:

  • Group discussions
  • Diary activities
  • Media uploads (e.g. videos, photos, web clippings)
  • 1-on-1 discussions between participant and moderator

How are Online Bulletin Boards (OBB) groups built?

Bulletin boards are conducted via an online platform and typically include 10-20 participants, though in theory there’s no upper limit. Groups can be composed of those who meet a broad set of demographics, such as consumers aged 18-65 who live in the UK, or can be more specific, such as B2B decision makers aged 25-65 in the financial services sector who use a specific enterprise software application, or parents with children aged 12-15 who purchase teen trousers at least once every three months.

Some clients recruit their participants from existing customer or prospect lists. Alternatively recruitment can be outsourced to a specialist agency such as FieldworkHub which has access to a broader range of potential participants and can screen them to find people who meet the client’s precise requirements.

How are OBBs beneficial?

OBBs empower researchers, executives, developers and brands to make decisions regarding strategy or next phases of research in a rapid and cost-effective manner. Within a few days, clients can obtain initial insights on topics of interest, allowing them to make decisions and tailor their next steps much more quickly than with traditional research methods. There is also more anonymity with participants in an OBB, making it especially useful when discussing more sensitive topics. 

Benefits to OBBs:

  • Cost-effective
  • Variety of activities and discussion styles to choose from
  • More interactive and engaging for participants, resulting in richer and more meaningful insights
  • Flexibility with participation - participants can take part from anywhere at any convenient time
  • Delivers insights in real-time (this is especially helpful with the rise in agile research in the MR sphere)
  • Offers more anonymity than in-person research 

What to consider when choosing an Online Bulletin Board platform

The last five years have seen a rise in the number of OBB software platforms, which can make the process of choosing which platform to use or license more difficult. Here are some of the most important things to consider when making your selection:

  1. Does your platform allow participants to log in and participate via mobile phone? Access to the platform via a mobile phone is hugely important as most people now use smartphones and tablets for much of their online interaction. It is also essential the mobile experience of the platform is user-friendly.  
  2. Is it available through both app and web browser? Though mobile phone apps are extremely popular, it’s useful if the platform is ‘device agnostic’ and can be accessed through standard web browsers as well. Platforms available via apps often have additional privacy concerns and drain the users’ batteries more, which can hinder participation.
  3. Are ample security measures in place? Now that the GDPR is in force, security should be a top concern when choosing a platform. To ensure privacy within your insights communities, you should consider platforms which offer SSL encryption, password protection, respondent privacy for tasks which need to be kept private, and notifications that tell respondents when tasks will be viewable by other members of the community.
  4. Does the platform allow respondents to delete and/or review material after it’s been posted? The option for individual respondents to view/edit/delete material they’ve uploaded is important as they can change their mind about what’s been posted. Not having the option to edit or delete may hinder participation.
  5. Is processing and accessing of files through the platform made easy? It’s important to consider the context and format of files being processed/uploaded and whether they’re compatible with other software used. Complications with file processing can bog down the synthesis of insights by your team, cause delays in field, and possibly hinder participation.
  6. Do you find the platform easy to use? This one is a no-brainer - you should ask yourself whether navigating and using the platform comes intuitively and is generally easy to use; if not, you may want to reconsider your selection.

How FieldworkHub can help

FieldworkHub can support a number of your OBB needs and has the capability to run a qualitative study from start to finish, including:

  • Advice on the most suitable OBB platform 
  • Participant recruitment 
  • Discussion guide development
  • Project management 
  • Expert moderation of OBBs in most major languages
  • Incentive handling
  • Reporting & analysis

Get in touch with us today to understand how we can help you with your OBB research needs.

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