Ah, the Focus Group.
Imagine a room of 6-10 people, whose every word is prompted by a moderator and who have arrived because you paid them to; whose every word will be written down and touched by another 6-10 people, and whose word is often used to inform some very, very big decisions. It’s not hard to imagine, because you’ve probably paid for a few in the last year.
Focus groups can be incredibly valuable when they’re used for what they’re best at: getting a small group of people to talk about themselves. But what they aren’t great at – but are constantly relied on to do – is actually fill in the accurate picture of how a massively varied set of audiences feel about you, your products or services, your competitors and more. In fact, one of the single hardest things for a focus group to do is provide you with exactly what your audiences say to one another in the wild, unprompted – and yet that’s often exactly why we convened them in the first place.
Every day consumers are creating millions of pieces of publicly visible content – from documentation of their day-to-day opinions on products and services; and for every post there are another several million readers influenced in some way. They do this on big, popular channels as well as niche corners of the Internet devoted to specific subjects or geographies. Which sample size would you like: the entire public record of an audience discussing your product and industry or the thoughts of ten people in a Focus Group?
Did We Mention It Was Cheaper?
Your average set of four focus groups will usually run you the same as our average single study. We are routinely told by our clients it was an easy swap – and they’ve never looked back!
But Let’s Talk About Volume
Over 9,000 Tweets per second, localized forum City-Data has 1,500 new posts a day, and Yelp gets nearly four million review-readers a day… Even narrow audiences have their own communities online where deep listening can reveal important, significant insights – such as industrial engineers of particular kinds of pumps, financial brokers in a specific state, sandwich-generation Moms looking into in-home hospice… etc.
What if you had a way to look back and glean the right insights and trends from this behavior? Can your focus groups tell you what corners of the Internet your hard-to-reach markets are in? Or take stock of how your competition is perceived today and is engaging in comparison – and find out where they aren’t connecting with your target audiences? Can your focus groups tell you exactly what vocabulary to use in messaging and SEO/SEM? Or better yet: even start looking forward and telegraph opportunities – or even better: crises?
A Question of Trust
Unlike a focus group, there is no waiting for trust to build, there’s no coaxing of answers, and no poisoning of the already small well with a presence; we get to observe actual behavior both in play historically as well as real-time. Furthermore, for insights such as specific actions, issues, and trends in a given industry, we can be both laser-precise in our investigations as well as tenacious. And lastly, these studies consider and digest a far larger population of behaviors than surveys and focus groups can provide, reviewing tens of thousands of posts and interactions in any given research project.
The content and the influence are there for the understanding.
Let ethnographic studies pull the key, actionable insights for you and help you take advantage of the world’s biggest focus group.
Then What? Actionable Next Steps
From there, the opportunities only get more robust. Our Step Two involves “quantifying the qualitative” – where message testing, informed by the ethnographic studies, tell us what messages and calls-to-action actually work with these audiences in hyper-targeted environments. Ongoing monitoring using those same ethnographic techniques can ensure you never miss a trend and provide you with endless content and messaging ideas.
Three Big Takeaways:
- Focus Groups are expensive ways to over-value the opinions of the few in a rarefied environment
- An extensive ethnographic study can analyze the thoughts of thousands where they prefer to speakto one another
- Test it for yourself: for the cost of your usual handful of focus groups, commission a focused study
Contact Us and Discover Feedback Today!
Dean Browell, PhD