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Bulletin Board Research in an Online Community

Updated: Jan 3, 2020

Written by: Larry Goodfellow

We recently used our online community software to complete a small scale 3 day Bulletin Board online discussion inside a large community. For this research project we recruited 20 individuals from our SaskWatch online community (15,000 members). We were interested in showing how effective a 3 day research discussion group can be. The first two days we asked questions that we knew would get our group members talking, and then on the third day we asked for more pointed feedback about how our product was and in which ways we could make improvements. This format is a good way for companies to gather insightful feedback about a product or service and building a good experience with community members to keep participating in future research projects.

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For the first day of the Bulletin Board we asked the questions, “Which is your favourite sports team and why?” Followed by “how would you influence others to follow your favourite team?” We asked the question about favourite sports teams as a way to get individuals talking, as well be able to gauge the community and whether individuals would respect each others opinions in this format compared to an online forum where there is anonymity. Talking about sports can produce a lot of loyalty towards one team and disregard for other teams, which we knew would really test the ability of the individuals to state their opinion freely while still maintaining respect. For the second part, we wanted to find out how members might influence their friends to follow their sports team, and if they might try the same way to influence others to join the community.

The second day we asked members, “what is your all-time favourite movie, and why?” followed by, “what is the best scene from your favourite movie?” By the second day individuals were sharing more about the question being asked as they seemed to be more familiar with the other group members. As the replies to the question began coming in, we asked another probing question regarding the way in which group members watched television and movies. The question asked was “How frequently do you stream movies from an online streaming service (e.g. Netflix, Crave, etc.)? Are there movies that you make the point to go to the movie theater for, rather than watching on TV or online? What are they, and what makes you go to the theater rather than watching it at home?” This discussion topic had participants actively sharing about their media consumption habits.

The third day we focused on getting the participants to share their opinion about our product which is the online discussion itself. We wanted to find out what the user experience was like, and find out what things the participants enjoyed as well as what things they thought could be improved upon. The questions asked were, “to begin, how is your overall experience with the online discussion? Do you like it? Why / why not? How easy is it to use and navigate the portal? Any suggestions to make it better? Are these online discussions adding value to your SaskWatch experience? Please explain. How often would you like these? How would you convince a friend to join SaskWatch?” The responses helped us confirm what we were doing right as well as show areas that we could improve in.

The results for the Bulletin Board were that we had 20 community members participate. The first day we saw a total of 56 comments from the 20 participants which shows a very high level of engagement. Community members said that they appreciated the fact that they had the option to be notified by email when their posts were replied to. Members also mentioned that they liked being able to participate in the discussions at a time that was convenient for them, and that since it was online and mobile friendly they could participate from anywhere. We saw that a very high number of participants logged into the community after 10 pm.

The results for day 2 showed a high level of engagement as well. Usually over a 3 day period you will see a drop off of members each day. For day 2 we had 18 panel members participate which showed a high level of engagement and retention. Many of the participants actively participated and we saw an increase in comments at a level of 57 comments. The questions about favourite movies seemed to really connect with members, and the probing question about streaming services also showed a high interest.

Day 3 received a total of 30 comments. Community members had great feedback about the positive aspects of the community. Many stated that they enjoyed the fact that many of the responses were so well thought out and that the viewpoints shared were not negative like the posts on social media. Panel members found the portal easy to use, the only thing was that they had to remind themselves to make time to post their responses. We also conducted a feedback study on the participant experience to provide information into our continuous improvement efforts.

“A lot of the answers were very well thought out and people put some quality thoughts into their responses. Was actually nice to read some others viewpoints that were not so negative like the social media posts out there now.”  -Quote from a SaskWatch Panelist

“There was no negativity here. I find social media posts can get out of hand. This was very nice to read.”  -Quote from a SaskWatch Panelist

In the follow up study on the Bulletin Board methodology respondents indicated a few key benefits:

  1. The platform (our online community software) was very easy to use and very user friendly

  2. The experience is not as negative as social media can be

  3. Email reminders were useful to prompt participation

“The bulletin boards are good way of thinking about some topics which you may not consider in daily routine. They make you come alive and interact and discuss with others.”  -Quote from a SaskWatch Panelist

Bulletin Board style research projects using our online community software is a great way to gather participants around a research subject. It allows for great qualitative data regarding your topic. The online discussion format is easy to use for participants and allows for high retention rates, and high levels of participation. Using our software we successfully ran this small scale qualitative project inside a large, traditional quantitative-focused panel.  If you would like to find out more about how our online community software can help you expand your research toolset with your panel or community, please contact us.

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