Online boards offer many advantages, from a deeper line of questioning over an extended time frame to a widened geographical reach to minimal travel and overhead costs. But what appears to be a straight-forward approach on paper can quickly spiral into uncontrolled territory if potential problems aren’t anticipated and planned for.
Having worked on a wide array of online bulletin boards on different platforms over the past few years, I’ve found certain key tricks and systems yield the best results. These projects are different from the typical in-person qualitative project, and as recruiters we have to treat them differently. Here are six steps we take to make your online board go smoothly.
1. Approve an outline of tasks for recruiters to review with potential respondents.
These may include uploading photos/videos or writing a blog. Respondents will need to have a clear picture of their required tasks from the very beginning.
2. Have respondents consent to a “Platform Agreement.”
In order to keep our online communities successful, we require each respondent who participates to sign a Platform Agreement. This agreement operates as a mini-contract, and respondents who agree to it generally abide by the requirements and complete everything the platform requires of them.
These agreements state that the respondent must:
- Actively participate each day the platform is live;
- Confirm that the email we have on file is the one they want to use for the online board;
- Agree to stay in touch with the watchLAB team in the event they fall behind on tasks or need technical assistance;
- Confirm they have working knowledge of their laptop, tablet, or smartphone and are capable of posting photos and/or videos, and;
- Acknowledge they will complete all the tasks required of them to be paid the full incentive amount.
This agreement must be completed within 24 hours of recruitment, via email. It lays out expectations of their participation and lets us weed out any participants who are not responsive to emails or are unsure about their commitment.
3. As an extra incentive, set up a budget for respondent bonuses.
This will help encourage some friendly competition between respondents, and the monetary incentive will encourage everyone to give their best effort.
4. Include a 2-day pre-platform phase in your project timeline.
These two days act as a grace period. At watchLAB, we use this time to onboard all the respondents, make sure they can all login to the board, and have introduced themselves to the other participants. We follow up with everyone via phone call to make sure they don’t have any technical issues and are good to go when the project begins in earnest.
5. Timing of your project is key.
For example, when a project is open for 5 days, it’s good to include a weekend so people can spend a little extra time with it. We also recommend keeping the platform open through Monday so Monday can be used as a catch-up day. This improves overall completion rates for respondents who may have fallen behind.
6. Daily management.
After you set up the structure, we take it from there. We’ll do whatever it takes to ensure everything runs smoothly: from weekend tech support to daily reminders and follow ups. Many of the better online boards have great tools that help us quickly see who we need to nudge along.
The watchLAB difference
Our level of high-touch support helps us keep the boards consistent and personal. We send emails from a watchLAB email account that will remain in constant communication with the participants each day there is a new task. This process includes personalized emails directed to the respondent telling them a new task has opened up, emails about missing or incomplete tasks (along with directions on how to get the task completed), and constantly telling them how much their insights are valued to the research project. If a respondent is having issues, we also follow up by phone to walk them through a task or any technical problems they experience.
This process allows our team to build a relationship with the respondents, so they are comfortable in asking help for any tech issues or confusion they may have. We’ve found this boosts participation rates as compared to sending emails and messages directly from the faceless platform. It all serves watchLAB’s goal: to make online boards as personal as a focus group, and as convenient as possible for everyone.
And there you have it, the keys to hosting a successful online platform! I look forward to making your next project a success as well! Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss design and pricing.