Unmoderated Research: Step By Step Process for How to Conduct It

woman on cell phone as an example of unmoderated research

Unmoderated research is an excellent tool to gain insights on products, concepts, features, platforms, and many other things. 

In addition, it’s a great way to measure customer satisfaction–an important factor for any brand or service. In fact, over two-thirds of businesses compete on customer experience alone. 

Recently, we partnered with a leading social media network that wanted to learn more about how influencers and bloggers used different features on their platform.

We also tested the usability of a new feature not available to the general public. 

This case study outlines how we were able to complete an unmoderated research project with 12 content creators in the United States. 

The Audience

Before we can launch recruitment campaigns, we need to understand the target audience. 

Using a client-written screener, our team learned more about the target audience for this research project. 

To qualify for this research project, participants must: 

  • Regularly create original digital content to share with their audience
  • Meet technology requirements by having a qualified mobile device 
  • Create content in one of the following categories: 
    • Food/Cooking/Recipes
    • Home Decor
    • Beauty or Grooming
    • Fashion or Style 
    • Financial Services/Budgeting
    • Travel 
    • Lifestyle 
    • DIY/Crafts
  • Regularly publish content on at least two of the following platforms:
    • Instagram
    • YouTube
    • Pinterest
    • TikTok
  • Regularly use qualifying features and tools on the social media platform 
  • Agree to have a prototype added to their social media account

💡 The Key Takeaway: Before beginning any market research study, it’s essential to know who your target audience is. It sets the stage for many components of the project including methodology, questions, price, and more.

The Approach to Unmoderated Research

Through our past experiences in recruiting social media influencers, our team decided to use a grassroots approach to find participants for this qualitative research study

We conducted research to find influencer accounts and contacted them for the project through customized email and direct message invitations.

The project invitations included information about the project and a link to complete a pre-screening questionnaire. 

To confirm that influencers met the targeted criteria, the pre-screening questionnaire included questions such as: 

  • How often do you create original digital content?
  • How would you describe who your audience is?
  • In the last 6 months, what kind of content have you created?
  • Which of the following best describes the category of the content you create?
  • About how many followers do you have on your main platform?
  • On which platforms do you regularly publish your content?
  • Please list the links or usernames to your primary channel/platforms and/or blog/website. 
  • Which of the following mobile devices do you use? 
  • Are you currently making money off of the content you create?
  • In order to participate in this research you will need to be granted access to a prototype in your account, do you consent to grant access to this prototype? 

Following the completed pre-screeners, we further vetted participants by double-checking all provided social media accounts and placed re-screening phone calls. 

During the re-screening phone calls, we confirmed core qualification criteria, technology capabilities, and utilized articulation questions.

This was done to ensure participants were able to freely speak and share ideas. 

Once participants were fully-qualified, they were sent a non-disclosure agreement for eSignature and a confirmation email with instructions and the deadline for completing the project. 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Taking a grassroots approach can be more effective for certain types of research participants. Doing so still allows our qualitative recruiting company to pre-qualify participants based on the requested quotas.

The Study Requirements

Participants in our unmoderated research interviews were asked to create a screen recording while using various features on the client’s social media platform and complete a 5-minute questionnaire about their experience. 

While completing the screen recording, our team asked for them to think out loud, and provided a list of 10 questions to answer while using the features. 

All participants were provided with a private Google Drive folder to upload their completed screen recordings. 

In total, the project was expected to take creators 1 to 2 hours. 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Oftentimes when conducting unmoderated UX studies, researchers ask participants to use video screen recordings to submit their feedback. Doing so allows brands to collect in-depth feedback without having to be present for the research interview.

Overcoming Challenges with Unmoderated Research

One challenge with this type of market research is in its name: it’s unmoderated.

There is no moderator there to guide participants or to confirm they have accurately completed all requirements before the recordings were submitted. 

To overcome this, we communicated expectations with participants clearly and often. We provided step-by-step instructions for participants to follow as they completed their screen recordings. 

We also let participants know in advance that if instructions were not followed, they may be asked to re-do the screen recordings before receiving their honorarium.  

Though we were confident that we provided participants with the tools necessary to successfully complete the project, we checked in with them often. This kept the line of communication open in the case that participants had questions or were unsure about the next steps. 

Our follow-up communication was rotated through email, text, and phone calls so if questions arose, participants could respond on the platform most comfortable to them. 

💡 The Key Takeaway: The main challenge with unmoderated interviews can boil down to instruction-following. Keeping open lines of communication with participants in these studies is key–that way issues can be dealt with swiftly. 

The End Result

From sign-off to completion, this unmoderated research project took 3.5 weeks, ending in early December. This project was conducted with 12 social media influencers. 

As with any market research project, some drop-off may happen. One participant let us know after recruitment that they would be unable to complete it by the deadline and was quickly replaced. 

We received all 12 screen recordings and online questionnaires before the deadline. All submitted screen recordings were executed accurately and no creators were asked to re-do the assignment. 

Drive Research processed $250 Amazon gift cards within 24-hours of the submitted screen recordings and questionnaires as a thank you for the content creator’s time and feedback. 

Speaking to our success, here’s what one of the participants from this research project had to say about Drive Research:

“Best research company I have ever worked with. Easy communication and clear directions from the beginning.  So very well organized.” 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Our research project was successfully completed in under 4 weeks. Participants completed the assigned tasks and were given Amazon gift cards as a thank you.

Contact Our Team to Conduct Unmoderated Research

While this project was conducted on behalf of a social media platform with content creators, unmoderated research is an excellent tool for all industries.

From learning more about how a current customer is using your product to testing a new app or platform, it reveals important user insight. 

Our hands-on management of participants provides a better experience for our client and participant, resulting in higher quality data. 

Interested in conducting a research project with our full-service market research company? Use the information below to contact us. 

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040


Ashley Reynolds

With nearly 10 years of experience in market research, Ashley has worked on countless quantitative and qualitative research studies. As a Fieldwork Manager at Drive Research, she’s involved in every stage of the project, especially recruitment.

Learn more about Ashley, here.

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