Before I became a professional writer, I was graduating with my Master’s degree in Applied and Clinical Sociology. While my world has since become filled with copy editors, grammar guides, and questions of “now what did you spend all your time in college for,” I have found a way to mesh my two loves. Taking techniques I learned back in the day, I’m able to offer my web-based clients a few lollipops in the form of analyzing and evaluating online communities and web-based social systems. As a site copywriter for websites I’ve discovered that using focus groups for analyzing social structures works well for online groups.
What is This Focus Group You Speak Of?
Just to clarify, a focus group is a small cohort of five to 15 individuals who meet with a facilitator to discuss a product or idea. For web-based focus groups, you have the advantage of meeting virtually. In a focus group session, the facilitator asks open-ended questions that allow and encourage expansion on the thoughts of the group members. In other words, save your yes/no questions for your survey, which we will discuss later on. The premise behind the focus group setting is for a facilitator, who is representing the group that needs feedback, to find out more than what meets the eye.
Applied to Web Content
For example, while a website may be curious as to why no one is leaving comments on their site, they might not be able to see the true picture from the audience’s perspective. During a focus group, topics might arise, such as the web content is not stimulating, edited or offering anything of value.
Getting Into Focus with a Sample and a Survey
A focus group, if done correctly through sampling, can give you an adequate and fair representation of your audience’s opinions based on your website and its content. To get a solid sample, start by sorting through your audience.
Sources of Audience Lists
- Do you send out newsletters to your members?
- Do you have a list of those who have favorited your blog?
- Are you on a social media site, such as Twitter, Facebook or Google+?
Any of these can provide you with your sample audience.
An ideal method for contacting interested individuals is to start by sending out a survey. You can use the survey as a basis for determining the kinds of questions you would want to find out more about in a focus group setting. Surveys ask closed ended questions with answers that typically involve yes/no, date of birth, or size of your household. In the survey, ask the respondent if they would like to participate in a focus group along with a request for their email so you can contact them. Use the names of those who would like to participate in your focus group for your sampling. Once you’ve used statistical methods for sampling the names on your list, you can ensure that your focus group will be chosen at random. This is essential in getting a good representation of your overall audience.
If done correctly, you can combine the information received from the surveys and the focus groups in order to get a more accurate picture of your audience. Top reasons for using this method is that it won’t cost you a thing other than the time spent creating and sorting surveys, and with facilitating your focus groups. Additionally, you take the guesswork out of knowing what your particular audience would like to see in terms of your website. By catering to the needs of those you want to support your site, you are extending the life of your website.
Miranda B is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.