Top Tips for Online Qual: Bulletin Boards

I work in the Tech, B2B & Financial team at Marketing Sciences and one of our specialisms – and increasingly popular with our clients – are online bulletin boards.


Bulletin boards are great for getting the type of in-depth answers you would otherwise use depth interviews or focus groups for. They are also great for time poor respondents who wouldn’t normally turn up to a traditional face to face focus group, and for time poor clients who can access the content when it suits them, day or night. 

2 Bulletin board images together


  • If you are talking to a niche group who are spread about the country or abroad it’s easier (so more cost effective) to get them together online than in a physical location (most of the boards we run are in English, but for international projects we’ve also run boards in the local language using a native speaker to moderate)
  • Respondents can answer questions at their own pace over the length of the board (typically 2-3 days) so for business audiences, they can fit it in with their own work.
  • They are great for reviewing stimulus without being face to face – e.g. looking at a website, articles, communications – they can click on a link then come back and answer questions on it.
  • Bulletin boards are also great for respondent generated content, which can be used to liven up Powerpoint debriefs.
  • The content also lives on in the bulletin board long after the research and can be used by the client to enhance learnings, and the future pipeline of propositions




  • There will be a lot of text output to go through at the end depending on how many respondents you have invited. So be clear about your objectives and keep questions focussed.
  • Remember this is qual research; you will have smaller numbers but more detail, with the advantage that you can probe further, so don’t tire respondents out with streams of questions which could have been captured with less effort on a quant survey.
  • Ask important questions early on in case interest tails off towards the end
  • Depending on the engagement of your audience you may need to over-recruit to allow for drop out – e.g. 30 to get 20 if regular consumers, 25 for 20 if an engaged B2B audience
  • Incentivise well to encourage completes – Amazon vouchers have wide appeal and are simple to send a code in an email for.
  • Be creative in how you get respondents to think about questions to keep up engagement – adapting projective techniques for online e.g. ranking importance, a ship is taking on water, what features do you put where in terms of how important they are?
  • Give the research a human face so respondents know there is someone listening to them to encourage fuller completion, welcome everyone to the board and probe or comment on their responses. A video intro from the moderator can also help here.
  • Not every response will need a comment – but make sure everyone has had some interaction
  • Have one moderator per group of respondents to build rapport, even if more than one researcher behind the scenes is ‘being’ that person.
  • Think about whether you want respondents to see each other’s answers. In some B2B markets for instance where you are talking to professionals who may be in competition with each other for business it can be better to keep the board ‘private’, otherwise they may be less forthcoming if they know that competitors can see detailed answers about their work, or wish to make themselves sound better. However, if you are talking to consumers and want them to be creative around a concept or discuss a topic then allowing them to build on each other’s responses is a plus. The middle road is to set it to ‘uninfluenced’ where respondents have to give their answer first before being able to see what other people have said, and comment on if they wish.

If you think this sounds interesting & you’d like to hear more, then do get in contact – we’d love to enlighten you further! 

Laura Spooner is an online bulletin board expert and a researcher in the Tech, B2B & Financial team at Marketing Sciences Unlimited. 

Email her at: or call on 01962 835397

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Laura Spooner
01962 842211
Article date - 26/02/2016
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