Teens can be one of the least reliable when it comes to conducting any kind of qualitative research and online qualitative is no exception. We need to understand how they communicate, where they communicate and what motivates them to communicate beyond the normal monetary incentives.
Teens can be one of the least reliable when it comes to conducting any kind of qualitative research and online qualitative is no exception. Hours can be wasted trying to track them down to complete a series of activities in a quality fashion. The key to all of this is bringing the activities to them. By managing to capture their interest, teens can actually turn out to be extremely useful. They have an exceptional eye for details, they love anything related to innovation and technology and it makes them look good on social networks. All of these are more than good reasons to include them.
One thing we do know is that teens are online – all of them, all the time. They’ve also never known a pre-internet (and smartphone) world, so communicating online is as natural for them as talking. But just knowing they’re online isn’t enough. We need to understand how they communicate, where they communicate and what motivates them to communicate beyond the normal monetary incentives. It’s as equally important to recognize their limitations.
Without giving away too much about the research, teens and their parents should be given an overview of the activities and what’s required at the recruiting stage. This prevents people from over promising when they’ve got too many additional commitments through school, sports or other activities. It also allows them to plan if you need to see them in action with their friends or family. Research projects fall down the list of priorities when real life competes.
Teens with similar interests are eager to connect with each other and comfortable in online forums. They are used to conversations that are presented as threaded. That said, satisfying a research goal isn’t going to be their primary motivator. They will want to present themselves, see what others have to offer and how they stack up against their peers. Consider making all activities, that aren’t sensitive in nature, social – but only let them see what others are saying after they post about themselves. This can easily be accomplished with online blogs and discussion boards. If you tell them they will be able to browse through other posts, videos and comments after they complete their activity they will be more motivated to complete.
One frustration I hear about constantly is the loss of interest from teen participants. Halfway through the project, response rates dwindle and no amount of money seems to be able to change that. While discussing how to approach this, one researcher suggested launching all activities (or most activities) at one time – allowing them to chose the ones they want to complete and in what order they’d like to do it. They’re told upfront that they must finish three-quarters of the exercises in order to receive their incentives. This puts them in control. She indicated that more often than not, all respondents ultimately end up completing all the activities. This idea seems to make sense if you are flexible with how you can structure your research.
It’s no secret a mobile phone is a teens best friend. From texting, tweeting, organizing friends and sharing media, phones provide a way for teens to reach out to their inner circle and to the masses. Current platform technologies allow us to reach into their worlds with similar ease. Not only does mobile allow you to capture ‘in the moment’ insights but it removes barriers to getting information form them in the form of text, video and pictures. Whether they are sitting in their room at night, on a break at school or out with their friends – we can reach them and they can reach us. Don’t be afraid to ask them to get creative with these tools – use them in conjunction with other technologies and most importantly – make it fun!
People like immediate gratification – especially teens. You can build a reward system into your research through sequencing. Consider locking special games, polls or privileged information behind an activity you really need them to complete. Response rates shoot way up when a perceived reward is available immediately.
Teens are more independently minded and have greater purchasing power than ever before, but alas they are still kids. They live in a world where their attention is being competed for by any number of outside sources – so patience and perseverance is key. Hopefully some of the suggestions we list above can make this road a bit less bumpy for you.
The author of this blog is Tammy Reiter a person who's into qualitative research for a long time. Her main goal's to spread awareness about the benefits of such research.