Online Qualitative Research with Teens | Mobile Bulletin Research Teens

Online Qualitative Research with Teens – July 31, 2012

Mobile Bulletin Research Teens

When it comes to qualitative research, candor is critical. Cutting through the noise and pretense to understand what your audience really thinks is paramount to a successful project.

Fortunately, with teens–especially teens online–the filter is off … sometimes to a fault; and that can mean great things for a qualitative project. Of course, just knowing teens won’t pull punches isn’t enough. You need to know how to engage them; you need to know what’s likely to motivate a response; and (perhaps most important) you need to know what the limitations really are.

It may seem daunting, but we’ve got years of experience working with kids and teens that we’d love to share. That’s why we’ve come up with 4 things to remember when looking to teens for unfiltered, unadulterated feedback.

Online bulletin boards: a great way to maintain anonymity and encourage honesty

Teens may be predisposed to saying exactly what they think, exactly when they think it, but that doesn’t mean they’re all willing to take the risk just to satisfy a set of research questions. Teens are highly influenced by their peers, whether they like to admit to it or not. They pay attention to how others dress, to what they say, and to how they’re perceived by the group. Online bulletin boards provide a mechanism for teens to remain anonymous, which can be key to getting open, honest feedback. Rather than acting as a wall to hide behind, the safety of the bulletin board often encourages the free exchange of candid, critical insights, without fear of judgment or criticism.

Smart phones: Perhaps the one thing a teen NEVER loses … so leverage that!

It’s no secret teens live on their mobile devices. Whether texting friends, posting videos on YouTube, or updating their status on Facebook, mobile devices provide simplified access to in-the-moment responses; and they’re never more than an arms length away. Because these devices are so accessible to teens, teens become that much more accessible to researchers, and their insights that much more valuable to your business–especially if your business is geared heavily toward teens. When considering mobile research, we suggest you follow a few simple rules:

  • Use mobile when it makes sense for the project, not just because it’s a cool new tool
  • Use mobile devices when you can be sure it’s a benefit, NOT a barrier to your audience
  • Using these devices comes naturally to teens; don’t be afraid to get creative and leverage   audio, video, and images as part of the engagement

Teens are busy. Design research around their schedules, not yours.

This one is self-explanatory: teens are social creatures and they’re more committed than ever to a range of social, educational, and extracurricular activities. It’s important to understand their needs, their limitations, and the absolute requirements of your project before choosing the best way to engage them. If you make it difficult for them to participate, they won’t. If you make it hard (or unappealing) for them to be honest, they won’t. If you make their participation seem irrelevant, they’ll bail. So use the tools that are easy, make sense to them, and provide them a way to engage that is super-low impact for the greatest returns.

In the end, they’re still teenagers. Remember that!

When it comes to qualitative, teens bring a lot to the table. For better or worse, attention span usually isn’t one of those things. Teens live in a fragmented world where multitasking is just an understood part of the equation. If you’re conducting research with teens–especially research online–it’s important to remember that they will be texting while they’re talking; they’ll be surfing the web or watching YouTube videos while they’re responding to a comment on the boards; they will be doing two or three or four things simultaneously … and that’s ok.

If you need teens to stay focused, engage them in person. If you need them to be available (which is typically a much bigger challenge), online qualitative is your best bet. If you can come to terms with the fact that you’ll likely be one task among many, your efforts will pay off and the insights you’re sure to gain will bring significant benefit to your business.