Shortly after this interview I did with Chris Brogan at Blogworld, I decided to start spending quite a bit more time on Google+. As I’ve spent more time there, I’ve found new and interesting ways to leverage the platform and have found that the overall quality of discussion there is significantly better than it is on facebook. It’s also not bound by the limitations of twitter’s 140 characters.
I recently decided to run a focus group using circles and it turned out to be incredibly insightful. Below I’ve outlined what I consider best practices for running a focus group using Google+
1. Know Your Objective
When I started the focus group, I had one clear objective which was the improve the user experience for my podcast listeners. Without a clear objective in mind you’ll just end up spinning wheels and the value of your focus group will diminish.
Having a clear objective will also help you determine what questions you want to ask your focus group.
2. Offer an Incentive
I offered each person who agreed to participate in my focus group a free 30 minute consultation for their blog or business. A solid incentive ensures that the people you recruit have motivation to participate in the discussion and contribute. If you have a product or service, offer it to the members for free or a hefty discount. The value of what you learn about about your audience/customers will far outweigh the costs.
3. Setup a Circle for the Focus Group
I recommend keeping your focus group small because the quality of the discussion is going to be far more valuable than the quantity. I only had 10 people in my focus group but each one provided nearly a 2 paragraph answer to every single question that I asked. I recommend choosing your biggest fans or most loyal customers because they tend to feel comfortable with you and will openly share their thoughts.
4. Ask Open Ended Questions
When you run a focus group, you really should try to get as much information as possible out of your audience. The best way to do this is to ask open ended questions. This will provide you with a far more in-depth view into your audience than gathering numbers and yes/no answers.
Below I’ve shared some of what I’ve learned about my audience as a byproduct of running this focus group.
The 4 Things I learned from my Focus Group
1. How my audience found me
One of the challenges with a podcast is that people rarely visit your web site because they listen via iTunes. So I wanted to learn how my audience found me so I could do my best to optimize my presence on iTunes. I learned what search terms they were using to find my show, and unexpectedly ended up with a handful of amazing testimonials from listeners.
2. How they Listen to My Show
I had always suspected that my audience listened to the show on the go, but, it was interesting to learn what devices they were using and what they were doing while they listened to the show. It ranged from the daily commute to listening while painting. It turns out not everybody loves the iPod as much as I do.
3. What I could to Improve the User Experience
This was really the goldmine of the focus group. Every member of the group provided actionable suggestions to improve the web site, and improve the show. When I was finished with the focus group I had a laundry list of new ideas and insights that didn’t come based on hunches, but based on what people actually wanted. The level of depth that came from this far outweighed any survey I’ve done.
4. The Goals of my Audience
Google+ is a great tool for creating psyographic profiles of your audience. By asking my audience about who they were and what their goals were I was able to paint an incredibly detailed portrait of the people who I was working with. As a result I could align content, service, and product offerings accordingly.
Interestingly enough what started out as a focus group evolved into a mastermind group that i’m using google+ for and the discussions have been incredibly valuable for everybody involved. Google+ can be a fantastic tool for gathering customer feedback.