“Goo are wey”, or the power of the written word

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Southwest Trains, en route to London Waterloo…

After giving my 5-year old daughter a big row and her storming into her room, I came upstairs to find a note on her door. “Goo are wey” it read (which translates into “Go Away”).

A clear message, despite the admittedly poor spelling.

This made me think of a common concern of clients when we suggest online chat-based focus groups as a research method: “But isn’t it unnatural for research participants to respond via written chat rather than answering verbally, live or via webcam?”

The truth is, it’s not. Definitely not for the more professional or B2B audiences. For many of us, writing is the first choice of communication. We are much more likely to email, chat, text, post or tweet than to pick up the phone or meet face-to-face. You may not like it but that’s how it is.

So, participating in a focus group via chat is not a big change from how we spend most of our working days (and a big chunk of our leisure time too).

And there are other advantages too. When we post a question in an online chat, all participants answer at the same time before reacting to each other’s responses. So the chance of one individual leading or influencing the group is much lower. Recruitment is easier since no travel or technical set-up is needed – and it makes it possible to speak to hard-to-recruit or geographically disperse audiences in a group setting. Clients can observe from anywhere in the world. Plus we get a full transcript of the session instantly at no extra cost.

Of course, online chat based groups are not always the best solution. As with everything, it’s horses for courses. But, we’ve had great success in using them for a variety of projects and audiences and I dare say our clients agree – including those who were initially hesitant about chatting rather than talking to customers.

As for my daughter’s message – although it was clear (to me), it didn’t quite have the desired effect. It made me smile and we made up straight away. But then, perhaps, this is what she really wanted anyway.

Author: Karin Heath

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