TAKING IT ONLINE: PART 2
Online chat is different from message boards in that the timing is synchronous – that is, everyone is there at once. That creates a more conversational energy and can allow the conversation to drift into unexpected but useful areas more organically.
We once saw a public health messaging study about quitting smoking become something of a “therapy session.” Simply having half a dozen smokers – all trying to quit – talking to one another brought out an incredible community of support, candor, and cheerleading among participants. One participant actually flushed their cigarettes down the toilet during the session, while explaining exactly what language was used to encourage that behavior. In other words, participants sourced us messaging language without us even asking!
While we often love that interactive dynamic of chat sessions, the methodology of text-based (i.e. typing-based) chat groups has its drawbacks. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in moderating text chat forums, it’s that the very act of typing introduces challenges.
1 — PEOPLE TYPE AT WILDLY DIFFERENT SPEEDS
This means that some people inherently have a louder voice, not because they’re trying to interject more, but because they just get there faster. With participants who type fast, a great way to manage that is to have private 1-on-1 conversations with them to drill down a bit more, while the others finish typing. That keeps them busy, heightens the insights, and takes the pressure off slow typers to hurry up.
At the same time, be aware in your analysis that you have more material from some people simply because they were able to type more. You can give them more airtime in the session by engaging them privately, but that doesn’t mean they get more airtime in the report.
2 — IT’S FASTER TO WRITE A COUPLE WORDS THAN IT IS TO WRITE A SENTENCE
This means that the people who type the least, usually get heard first. And that can lead to a dynamic in which people feel they’ll be heard or seen if they write less. Again, a great trick is to engage these “short-response” participants in private 1-on-1 chats. That way you can dig more into their responses without publicly incentivizing short answers, and simultaneously afford others the time they need to write more thorough responses.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask them (again privately) to expand upon their response to the broader group: “Hey Avery, I see you love Tiger King. Can you share with the group what it is that you love about it? Thanks!”
IN EITHER OF THESE CASES, it’s good to encourage people to write more (e.g. “Please write at least a sentence explaining your response.”). And make sure to note that you won’t (as the moderator) move on until everyone is finished. But the truth is, some people will still write less or get done more quickly. This is particularly problematic on platforms like Remesh, which reward the quickest responses.
So, make sure you leave time for the lengthier, more substantive response to appear and be read by others. And as the moderator, encourage others to react to those longer responses, if they haven’t already. (e.g. “Do others of you agree with Avery? Disagree with Avery? Why/why not?”)
“SHOULD WE USE ONLINE TEXT-BASED CHAT?”
WHEN TO USE:
When you want to have a more conversational vibe, you have a target participant group that’s likely to have good typing skills, and you can schedule everyone at the same time.
WHEN NOT TO USE:
When scheduling is difficult, or you might have non-native language speakers or others who struggle with timed-environment typing.
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