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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 Board (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:

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:

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:

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

Good qualitative research is only as good as the insights gleaned from interview moderation, which is what makes hiring the right moderator so important. This post explains the kinds of things you should consider when hiring an interview or group moderator. Be sure to enquire if you'd like FieldworkHub to provide moderation, or full service management of your research study.

A market research moderator* is an individual who runs focus groups, in-depth interviews, online bulletin boards and other qualitative research (e.g. ethnographies). He or she is responsible for creating a smooth discussion, managing varying group dynamics, inspiring participants to engage in relevant topics of conversation, and ensuring that the client’s objectives are addressed through a meaningful exchange. Research moderation is a balancing act and requires a unique set of skills which not every researcher has in their toolbox.

What to look for in a moderator

Your moderator should...

  1. Be a people personthese words are overused, but in the case of research moderation, this trait is key. It is essential that your research moderator has a natural curiosity about people, can interact with them comfortably, and show them empathy throughout the course of the discussion.
  2. Be informed about the topic and know the audiencein order to run a discussion effectively and make the most of people’s time, it is important that your moderator has educated themselves appropriately on the research topic(s) being discussed. It’s also important they understand who will be participating, to take account of any nuances in language, culture, and general norms when leading a discussion on the topic. This ensures the conversation flows smoothly and maximises the opportunity to gather insights. Having a good grasp on the research discussion guide is an excellent place to start.
  3. Inspire additional topics of conversation while keeping client objectives at the forefront a key goal of your research moderator is to challenge concepts and introduce new ideas; they should also be able to recognise when to ask participants to expand further versus when additional thought seems frivolous or unnecessary. This is perhaps the best example of how moderation is a balancing act. The moderator needs to inspire further discussion while keeping the client objectives in mind and not steering too far off course.
  4. Ask the right questions, but be careful not to be too leading this is another prime example of how moderation is a balancing act – it is the moderator’s role to ask questions and probe participants to dig further where it feels relevant and necessary; however, this should be done in a way that feels organic and unbiased. Participants mustn’t feel as though they were led to express an opinion or conclusion as a result of suggestions made by the moderator.
  5. Show flexibility and adaptability as the interviews and discussions may not go as planned almost inevitably, the discussion does not go quite as planned. There are always unexpected elements, particularly with the dynamics of group discussions, not to mention random aspects related to practical matters like technology and schedules. It’s therefore essential your moderator has the ability to adapt to changes in schedule and direction without getting flustered.
  6. Be able to highlight relevant findings in a concise format for the clientas the person closest to the discussion held by participants and having a good understanding of the client’s objectives, research moderators hold a wealth of knowledge on relevant themes and findings. Your moderator must have the ability to summarise what they’ve heard, verbally or on paper, and highlight the most relevant topics and findings given the research objectives. Any thoughts about to how future research or discussions could be improved can also be very helpful.

FieldworkHub’s recent addition, Ariana, is one of our in-house moderators and insights researchers for full service work. With 10+ years working within the field, performing various roles within quantitative and qualitative research, Ariana brings a breadth of experience in writing, presentation, and analysis. While Ariana focuses mostly on research performed in the US and UK, FieldworkHub has a pool of other vetted moderators keen to take on work in other countries. We are always happy to discuss how we can satisfy your requirements

* It should be noted that the terms used to refer to the role of Moderator vary slightly from country to country: in the US, a ‘moderator’ is someone whose role mostly involves conducting interviews and group discussions. In the UK, moderators are often referred to as ‘qualitative researchers’ and may perform a wider set of responsibilities including research design and analysis of findings.

FieldworkHub is an agile, knowledgeable market research fieldwork agency providing high-quality focus group recruitment as part of our full range of qualitative and quantitative fieldwork services.
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