Methodology Deep Dig: Online Digital Communities

Online digital communities, formally known as online bulletin board focus groups, are a form of qualitative research that brings together a selected group of participants to discuss a specific topic or research objective. It is a virtual version of traditional face-to-face focus groups conducted on an online discussion board.

Here's how online digital communities typically work:


  1. Recruitment: Participants are selected based on specific criteria relevant to the research objective. They may be recruited through various methods, such as online advertising, targeted email invitations, or existing research panel databases.

  2. Platform Setup: An online platform or bulletin board is set up specifically for the focus group. The platform serves as a virtual meeting space where participants can engage in discussions. It can include various features such as discussion threads, multimedia uploads, polling tools, and private messaging.

  3. Timeframe: Online bulletin board focus groups are usually conducted over several days to a few weeks. This allows participants to log in at their convenience and provide thoughtful responses.

  4. Moderator Guidance: A moderator guides the discussions and keeps the conversation focused on the research objectives. They introduce topics, ask questions, and encourage participants to share their thoughts and experiences. The moderator's role is to stimulate discussions and ensure everyone has a chance to contribute.

  5. Participant Engagement: Participants are encouraged to actively participate in the discussions by responding to the moderator's questions and interacting with other participants. They can share their opinions, provide examples, or ask clarifying questions. In addition, the asynchronous nature of online bulletin boards allows participants to carefully consider their responses and provide more detailed input compared to real-time focus groups.

  6. Data Collection: All discussions, comments, and interactions are recorded, providing a rich source of qualitative data that can be analyzed later. The BBFGs may also use additional methods such as polls, surveys, or multimedia uploads to gather diverse forms of input.

  7. Analysis: After the focus group concludes, researchers analyze the collected data, identifying key themes, patterns, and insights. This analysis can involve qualitative coding, thematic analysis, or other techniques to make sense of the participants' contributions.

  8. Reporting: The findings from online bulletin board focus groups can be summarized and presented in a research report or used to inform decision-making processes. Quotes, anecdotes, and anonymized participant statements may be included to illustrate the main points and support the findings.


Online bulletin board focus groups offer several advantages over traditional face-to-face focus groups. First, they eliminate geographical constraints, allowing participants from different locations to participate on their schedule. They also give participants more time to reflect on their responses and generate in-depth insights. Additionally, there is an opportunity for participants to remain anonymous, allowing for sensitive questions and topics.


Overall, online bulletin board focus groups are a valuable research tool for: 

  • gathering qualitative data, 
  • exploring participants' perspectives, 
  • and gaining insights into their attitudes, behaviors, and preferences.


Reach out if you want to learn more about our online digital community and how we can help meet your research goals.

Posted by Jennifer

Jennifer is all things project management, but she is also passionate about qualitative research, and creating unique graphics and data viz. When she isn't consumed with work, you can find her playing outside with her husband, son and their two blue heelers, starting her next DIY project, or volunteering in the community.

Topics: Research Tips, Research, What We Do