Tips and Tricks for Digital Ethnographies

Woman on laptop

We describe digital ethnographies as research used to observe and capture people’s behavior and thoughts facilitated by online tools in a digital “space”. The ethnography consists of self-recorded events via text, photos and video that capture rich, real-time observations as things happen naturally, often giving us access to otherwise inaccessible aspects of a person’s life.

Over the years digital research methodologies have become more popular and lately we are seeing a big spike in interest given the current public health restrictions that limit the feasibility of in-person methodologies. We’ve used digital ethnographies to connect with customers for nearly a decade and, during that time, have learned a lot that we are happy to share.

Well-designed exercises are the foundation:

  • Begin the study with an easy and fun warm-up exercise to help consumers get used to interacting with the digital platform.
  • Keep consumers engaged each day by including a daily diary question.
  • Don’t overload the exercises with too many questions or tasks – keep it simple for the best responses.

Digital Ethnographies are not set it and forget it:

  • Exercises are asynchronous and can be completed on the consumer’s schedule, but responses should be reviewed and moderated by the research team.
  • Moderators should check responses throughout the study (throughout the day, if possible) to thank and encourage participants and ask follow-up questions.
  • Include moderator videos to put a face to the study and make it clear there are real people on the other side interested in what they have to say.

Getting the right people is key:

  • Set appropriate expectations for how much time will be required and keep the platform open for at least 10 days to allow for completion.
  • Have a plan in place for managing participation – clarify upfront if this falls on the research team or your recruiting partner.
  • Include a generous over-recruit to ensure you get the number of responses needed.

Choose the right digital platform:

  • Consider the types of exercises supported – if you need a journal, ideation, surveys or community boards, make sure the provider can accommodate.
  • Test the platform first to get a feel for the overall user experience and the devices supported.
  • Clarify what the pricing includes such as length of time you have access to the platform, level of technical support, or asset storage capacity.

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Reach out if you have questions or want to learn more. You can also check out a recent webinar we delivered on the topic for the Insights Association.

Jennifer Cuthill
jennifer@clearworks.net

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