How Do Online Focus Groups Work

Focus Groups\

Not all online surveys are done through questionnaires. Online surveys exist in various formats and methods. One of these modes of data gathering is online focus groups, which are common for political research, consumer research, and commercial research where businesses conduct research on competitors or other companies in their sector.

What are online focus groups?

Online focus groups are groups of consumers who are pre-qualified to meet a certain target of interest. Participants are invited to use conferencing software for a discussion on a certain topic. Group sessions generally last for an hour, up to an hour and a half. A moderator is there to control the flow of the discussion and to help probe for deeper insights on the topic.

Tools that may be used in online focus groups are: chats rooms, instant messaging, webcams, streaming video, virtual whiteboards, and screen sharing.

Why online focus groups instead of in-person focus groups?

Gathering different people from various parts of the country or world can be extremely expensive. Online focus groups allow people from anywhere in the world to gather for a better representative sample than just those who are available to travel. This type of research makes it possible for research to be done faster due to less travel time. These research groups are generally recruited from existing pools of respondents who have signed up to participate in online survey panels.

How do focus groups work?

A survey invite will be sent to you when your survey profile matches the target demographic for the research project. In the invitation, you will be asked if you are willing and available to participate, and it will explain the requirements of the project, which may include the need for a webcam. If you respond "yes," you will be asked to choose from a list of available time slots for the various discussions that will be held. Before the scheduled discussion, you should receive the confirmation of your participation. The confirmation will also contain the url or link to the chat room, plus your login information.

Upon login, you will be sent to a waiting area--this is where you wait for other participants to login. Here you can chat with other panel members and the moderator. The moderator checks the behavior during this stage and makes the decision whether or not to move participants to the main forum. Usually online focus groups recruit a surplus of two to four panel members, in case anyone's behavior in the initial chat appears to be disturbing, and they are not moved to the next level.

Who moderates the online discussion?

There may be various people monitoring the discussion. Generally there is one moderator to control the flow of the discussion. There will also be other unseen observers monitoring how the discussion is managed. There will be project managers monitoring the chat and other moderators helping work through the outlined discussion plans and generating extra questions on-the-spot to probe deeper into members' comments.

How much do you earn for online focus group participation?

Pay may vary, but generally you receive larger payments for online discussion groups. Some websites pay in currency, while others incentivize in points that are convertible to cash or gift cards. In many cases, for a 90-minute focus group you can earn $75 to $300 an hour, depending on prior participation and the topic of discussion. Usually, your account will be credited with your payment when the survey is closed and your participation is verified by the project managers.

Which survey companies which conduct online focus groups?

The majority of online survey panels will allow you to participate in online focus groups. Some of the panels that currently focus groups right now are Opinion Outpost, IPSOS, MySurvey, 2020 Research, MindField Online, iTracks and many others.

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