Get on Your Users’ Platforms
Although there are already many well-established ways of learning about users, factors such as budget, timing, and audience could require you to find a new, creative approach. For our study, we had the luxury of talking to users over an extended period of time lasting two months, but we didn’t have the budget to set up a multi-city, in-person, longitudinal study, so we determined that the best way to reach a wide variety of people was to go where they were: Facebook. All of our participants already had an active Facebook account. In making Facebook the main conduit for our research, we were simply asking participants to extend their natural usage patterns to our research.
We invited our participants to join a private Facebook group, through which we were able to communicate with them. They could respond in their own time. We posted surveys, mini-polls, and other requests, and usually received responses within hours—sometimes minutes. On average, we had an 89% completion rate on surveys distributed to the group. Since we asked the participants to complete many different activities over the course of two months during the summer, we expected some natural fluctuations in participation over time.
When on Facebook, Do What Facebook Does Best
Although we incorporated traditional forms of research like surveys and interviews, we also used methods that were more native to Facebook to generate interest and participation, including Facebook’s built-in polling tools, picture sharing, and Like feature. These methods aligned well with what people in our target age group are doing on Facebook. We simply prompted them to take similar actions during our research project, creating a constant dialogue.
For example, during our two-month period of research, we didn’t want to overwhelm or burn out our group of participants. On the other hand, we wanted to keep our research top of mind for them and ensure that they remained engaged throughout the study. Facebook’s integrated polls were a great tool for accomplishing this goal. We’d post a simple question that could enhance what we know about this group such as “What did you do over Memorial Day weekend?” or “What are your summer plans?” Answering these questions was quick and easy for them and kept the group engaged during weeks when we didn’t have more active research efforts going on.