Between the ongoing major shift to digital, long-distance communication, and the rapid advancement of the technology we use to connect in our daily lives, smartphones and texting has become second nature for many of us.
So, hosting text focus groups for research discussions seems like a no-brainer, right? Surprisingly, it’s an area little-explored in the world of market research. But the reason for it couldn’t be more timely.
According to Pew Research, 97% of Americans 18 and older own cell phones, with 85% of them owning a smartphone. For some of us, especially the younger generation, texting, and Direct Messages are more comfortable ways to express ourselves than verbal communication.
Not only that, but Zoom fatigue is very real – it’s safe to say that a video call discussion isn’t exactly the fresh, novel concept it may have been pre-2020.
These unique focus groups may just be the “golden ticket” some projects need to better reach broader (and often younger), hard-to-reach audiences.
Below, we’ll cover the key benefits (and downsides) of conducting text-based focus groups.
What are Text Focus Groups?
A text-based focus group is a type of market research that involves a moderator sending questions via an online chat to a group of participants. Then, participants are tasked with texting their answers back to the moderator and other focus group participants.
The study happens in real time during a scheduled, pre-determine meeting.
In recent years, several platforms have popped up that support texting market research studies, like and online bulletin boards.
Our focus group company recommends using a platform that a majority of people are aware of such as Facebook Groups.
💡 The Key Takeaway: Led by a moderator, a text-based focus group involves participants sharing feedback through an online chat or forum in real-time.
Benefit #1: Convenience
First and foremost is convenience.
The ability to text a reply to a discussion opens up opportunities for participants to take part in the discussion under conditions that would otherwise be detrimental to an online focus group.
A participant may have no issue formulating their responses in a noisy environment, but the moderator and others will certainly have a hard time hearing them.
Also, as mentioned above, in regards to “Zoom fatigue”-- some participants may feel less inclined to participate if they are expected to be on camera. This makes them good candidates for text-based focus groups.
The convenience factor can also be a major draw for participants who come from a lower socioeconomic background, as cell phones are far easier to obtain and use than a laptop or desktop computer.
It was recently found that up to 96% of 16 to 64-year-olds own a smartphone, with only 63% owning a desktop or laptop.
This can be a major obstacle to reaching underrepresented demographics that may not have access to the same resources as more broad, easier-to-reach populations.
We’ve talked about how text focus groups make market research more accessible on the participants’ end, but what’s in it for your business? More on that in the next section!
💡 The Key Takeaway: Never underestimate the importance of participant inclusion when hosting a focus group, text or otherwise. Focus groups that are based in texting format have the ability to cater to a wide range of people.
Benefit #2: Quality Responses
In research, it’s essential participants are comfortable so they give thoughtful feedback. One of the best quick tips for better virtual focus groups is that respondents are made to feel at ease.
This is where basing research on texts plays a big role.
As opposed to a spur-of-the-moment verbal response in a video call, you’re essentially giving participants a mini writing prompt where they can take their time to formulate a response, with much less fear of being interrupted or derailed.
Having more space to think and articulate leads to more thoughtful responses, and also ensures that each and every participant can respond in full. This is truly the basis of what makes a focus group project successful. It’ll benefit those participating in focus groups, and also bring in better data.
This is as opposed to sometimes rapid-fire discussions that can happen in verbal group discussions, which may leave some more introverted participants feeling left out and less likely to speak up.
Speaking of introverts, the less-outspoken population is nothing to sneeze at. It’s long been debated just how much of the general population meets the general criteria for introversion, but the general consensus is that introverts make up anywhere from one-third to 50% of the population.
Written communication being easier for introverted people to take part in than verbal discussions also is a well-documented phenomenon.
💡 The Key Takeaway: Making participants feel at ease in focus groups is another benefit of hosting them via text. It also allows for increased quality responses.
Benefit #3: Capacity
Another major benefit of this research is the sheer capacity they allow.
Some of the most popular text focus group platforms allow you to have up to 1,000 people participating in a live discussion.
It goes without saying that qualitative research on this scale would take significantly more time, effort, and labor if it were conducted in a more traditional setting.
💡 The Key Takeaway: Text-based focus groups can have up to 1,000 participants. Even though this can be labor intensive, the amount of data makes it worth the leap.
Disadvantages to Text Focus Groups
It goes without saying that there are some aspects of face-to-face communication that are impossible to recreate in text.
1. Poor communication
The common mistakes with qualitative market research often have to do with poor communication, and this type of focus group is no exception.
Facial expressions and body language are near impossible to convey this way– unless you encourage the use of emojis, for those who enjoy them.
2. Unresponsive participants
In text focus groups, there’s also the potential for participants to become unresponsive to text messages midway through the study.
However, close moderation and using specialized platforms can keep this to a minimum (one of the reasons you should use a third party for focus groups).
That said, it’s not as if unresponsiveness is an issue unique to texting, plenty of participants may feel less comfortable speaking in front of others and “slip through the cracks” of a verbal discussion.
3. Smaller discussions
Generally speaking, the risks of conducting a text focus group are not dissimilar from that of a video or in-person discussion.
There are risks to focus groups in market research, but the capabilities and unique opportunities that text focus groups open up to research teams are unmatched.
Even if your goal isn’t to reach hundreds of participants, the accessibility of text groups can lend itself to more thought-out smaller discussions, as well.
The advantages certainly outweigh any hangups that may occur along the way.
Our post on virtual focus group best practices provides additional details on how to run the best research project possible.
💡 The Key Takeaway: The biggest downsides to this type of research have to do with the lack of queues that would be present during physical interaction. As long as there is close moderation, this issue poses little threat.
Focus groups in marketing are necessary to gather key insights and actionable data about an audience. When you make them text-friendly, new possibilities open up for reaching even more people.
Whether it be a text focus group, remote, or in-person - Drive Research can help.
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Finn’s creativity and curiosity lend themselves to what they call a “research brain”. Their background in creative and academic writing fuels their love for learning and communicating with participants on all kinds of projects.
Learn more about Finn, here.