You can use the Internet to conduct affordable, efficient and effective online focus groups, particularly when you're beta-testing any part of your Web site.
Online focus groups can be conducted in several ways:
- Chat. This is the most "real time" version of online focus groups. After you've screened participants, they can go online in a private chat room and respond candidly to questions from a moderator.
- Posting boards. This requires more effort on the part of the participants. If you already have an active online community on your site, you can tap into it to get feedback on everything from products and services to new features on your site. Create a new posting board specifically for this purpose and invite your members "next door" to comment.
- E-mail lists. This is a more personal way to get
feedback. After screening participants, subscribe them to a
discussion Internet mailing list. A moderator asks questions and
participants respond via e-mail. This is less immediate than a chat
room but often yields very detailed and helpful responses.
Aliza Sherman is an entrepreneur and author of Cybergrrl: A Woman's Guide to the World Wide Web (Ballantine Books). She is currently working on her next book and new company.