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An intriguing use of social media

April 28, 2008

Early in my career as a copywriter in the world of advertising, I was subjected to privileged to sit in focus groups that were testing the creative I had helped create.

Like most people who aren’t in research, I detest the very idea of focus groups. But then, I thought about new media ideas for focus groups. Like, using Twitter for focus group testing. Can you get together a list of people in your target market and test things? Test ads, new sites. Offers? In the days before digital, we would gather 20 random people in a room and have them talk about something. This would be a wildly different conversation, but would it be bad?

Now, the first obstacle is that in a semi-anonymous stage, people might be rude. I think that’s right. But I also think that in focus groups, some people feel to self-conscious to contribute like they would want to. So it might be a push.

Anther option is an e-group. Yahoo has e-groups. What if a client were to start one, and invite people to it. In return for being an insider, they would get things. Why an e-group and not just a group on the site?

Control. An e-group implies that the brand is giving up some control. People can talk freely on a site hosted by someone else because they will assume the brand can’t pull it down.

It would also be public. Which is also kind of cool. Because the brand that can publicly air complaints, is a brand that will succeed in social media.

So think about focus groups, but think about them differently. Instead of getting people in a room, get them in a tool (or a virtual room with Second Life). Use the tool to start conversations about your brand. Give them something to get in the door, then the let the tools (which are build for conversations) do the rest.

I might not hate focus groups anymore.

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