This step-by-step guide will show you how to conduct member research interviews that will provide you crucial information for your community and strengthen your bond with your interviewees.
To make your members feel like they belong, you must be able to explain how their identities fit into the larger context of your community. Additionally, you need to be aware of more minute details like the technology they like, the places they spend their time online and offline, as well as their typical problems, requirements, and isolation points.
So, how can you gain these insights about your members?
People cannot be directly asked for this information. Most people won’t know the answers, or they’ll say what they believe to be true. Sometimes people are unable to provide a truthful response to questions like,
“How much would you be willing to pay for our membership?” or “What do you want to be able to do in our community?”
But there is still some hope. You can conduct member interviews as primary research to obtain the answers to these questions. While this type of research will be familiar to UX researchers, it takes on a new shape in community building: your objective is not just to learn from research participants’ insights, but also to maintain a relationship with them after the interview.
What is an Interview?
Typically, an interview is described as a conversation with an objective. When your organisation needs information on assumptions and views of activities in your community, they can be quite useful.
They’re also great if you want in-depth knowledge on a specific subject from a professional. (If what you actually need is numeric data—how much and how many—a written questionnaire would be more useful.)
Instead of being a skill or science, interviewing has been referred to be an art. Other times, it’s been explained as a game where the interviewee receives some type of reward or just as a technical skill you can learn. However, you look at it, conducting interviews is a skill that can be developed through practice.
How to Conduct Community Member Research Interviews?
1. DEFINE YOUR RESEARCH OBJECTIVE
Decide on one main research objective. If you’re creating a community, for instance, one of your goals might be to comprehend the value proposition of your community in the words of your potential members.
Alternatively, you might already have a community with a sizable number of its members who aren’t adding any new content, and you need to figure out how to develop more worthwhile initiatives that would intrinsically inspire them to do so.
Choose one objective, then focus your participant selection and your questioning on achieving that objective.
2. Choose the participants
It is your responsibility to reduce selection bias as much as you can during the interview selection process. The people who are most likely to take part in surveys or interviews have similar traits, such as flexible work schedules or a tech-savvy.
Make a wide range of times accessible, say you’ll come to the candidates rather than having them come to your office, and allow for phone interviews.
Above all things, be mindful of whose opinions are being ignored during your selection process.
Are the interviews you’re conducting reflecting the diversity of your community’s members or what you hope the community will be like?
3. Schedule interviews
Send out invitations to everyone and set up at least an hour to speak with each person. The hour will pass quickly.
Many people think that by conducting all of their research using surveys, they can speed up this process. Of course, surveys can yield important data, and it is advisable using them as screeners.
However, interviews are crucial if you want to learn a lot about your members and develop relationships with them.
Tips for organizing the interviews:
The easiest way to interact with someone is in person, especially in a setting where they feel at ease (like their office) or where there is neutral ground (like a coffee shop). They can come to your office but be aware that they won’t act as natural.
- In terms of geographic accessibility as well as making participation more convenient for people with all abilities, incomes, and schedules, video chats or phone conversations are beneficial.
- Offer no rewards for these interviews, including gift cards, points, or swag.
- Don’t be vague in your invitations about your research objective. Make the objective explicit and relate it to the impact you want the community to have.
4. PLAN QUESTIONS AND CONDUCT INTERVIEWS
In general, people are unable to directly respond to questions concerning their behavior. As opposed to this, people frequently say what they wish to be true or what you believe they want to hear.
It is crucial to prepare for this and find alternatives. Asking open-ended questions, going in-depth, building rapport, and asking “how” questions as opposed to “why” questions can all help you achieve this.
Here is a list of some quick questions that will help you get the key insights you require:
Getting to know your members:
- A simple warm-up query, such as “What do you do for work?” will establish initial trust and safety.
- Where are you from?
- How do you describe yourself?
- How did you use technology today? What software do you mean?
- Give an account of a typical day in your life. likewise, a typical the weekend day.
Throughout it all, take notice of popular expressions and minute details like brands they use, wear, or other organizations that are significant to them outside of your community.
Nonverbal cues are significant to pay attention to since they convey underlying values, attitudes, and behaviors that you could miss if you only pay attention to verbal cues.
Specifying how the community can benefit your members:
- What recent difficulties have you encountered in terms of the goals of your community?
- How did you overcome such challenges? Did other people play a role in the solution?
- Who do you look up to or aspire to be like?
- What other communities do you belong to? Do you read news sources? Which courses do you take?
- What remarkable experiences have you had so far with our brand? with a different brand in a similar.
Don’t simply read the questions on your list. Facilitate a natural flow of conversation. The interview is not a transaction. You’re establishing a connection.
The 5 Whys paradigm can be useful for identifying underlying motivations, but it should be noted that asking “why” is typically pointless because people will try to explain their behaviour by going backwards in time.
Instead, use questions like
“Can you tell me more about that?”
“What do you mean by that?” or “That’s a new idea for me.” to elicit further explanations.
How did you find that out?
Additionally, you can ask them to correct you after you repeat back what you believe you heard; this will provide you with any nuances you might have missed.
The final question in the interview is,
“Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?” and a sincere acknowledgement of their commitment to giving back to the community.
TYPES OF INTERVIEWS
It’s time to make a decision on how you want to conduct the interview now that you’ve decided how structured you want it to be. Is it possible to conduct this over the phone, or must you meet in person? A focus group might be the best option. Let’s take a closer look at each of these interview types.
The best technique to obtain information is through face-to-face interviews. Depending on the amount of time and resources you have available, you may choose to conduct face-to-face interviews. A Face-to-face interview has some benefits, including:
- You have more flexibility. You can exercise caution when choosing which questions to ask and explore for more detailed responses.
- You can keep an eye on nonverbal behavior.
- You are well aware of the respondent.
- You have command over the physical environment.
- You can record spontaneous answers.
- You can use a more complex questionnaire.
- You can verify that all questions have been addressed during the interview.
However, you should think about using another interviewing method if face-to-face interviews turn out to be too costly, time-consuming, or uncomfortable to perform.
For instance, your respondents could prefer the security of anonymity if the data you’re gathering is sensitive or confidential, in which case a anonymous questionnaire would likely be more appropriate.
A good technique to get information is through the use of telephone interviews.
They are especially helpful when setting up a face-to-face interview is not feasible due to the individual you want to speak with living a long distance away.
The majority of the benefits and drawbacks of face-to-face interviews apply here, with the obvious difference that you won’t be able to observe nonverbal behavior.
Here are some tips to help you have a good phone interview:
- Do not conduct phone interviews for longer than ten minutes at a time; exceptions may be allowed depending on the nature of the interview and the arrangements you have made with the interviewee.
- If you require any references for your interviewee, give them to them in ahead.
- On the phone, when fewer individuals are willing to participate in conversation, be particularly motivating.
- Please introduce yourself and list your qualifications. Some respondents could be distrustful and suspect a prank is being pulled on them.
- If you want to record the talk on audio, get permission first.
- Don’t rely on your memory to remember what you heard; instead, write it down as you hear it.
- Don’t make it another boring phone call by speaking clearly, loudly, and with a range of pitches.
- Avoid calling too early in the morning or too late at night.
- Thank the interviewee and end the conversation politely.
Email interviews have grown in popularity as the usage of computers for communication increases. Email is a low-cost tool for conducting interviews. Email interviews have equal benefits and drawbacks to phone interviews.
Compared to the phone, emails are much less bothersome. You can get in touch with the person you interviewed, give them your inquiries, and then write them a thank-you note after receiving their responses. You might never speak with or meet your respondent.
However, unless you maintain exchanging messages to explain responses, your possibilities of investigating through email are relatively limited. When you initially get in touch with the interviewee, you must be extremely clear about what you require.
Additionally, some people might dislike how impersonal email interaction is, but others would like to have more time to consider their responses.
One particular “group interview” format that could be very helpful to you is a focus group that is facilitated by a trained facilitator.
Focus groups made up of individuals whose perspectives you are interested in learning about could be less structured, but the information you receive is incredibly valuable. Focus groups may be a flexible tool of data collection since you may narrow in on a set of people’s perspectives while asking open-ended questions that the entire group is free to respond to and discuss.
This frequently prompts discussion and argument, revealing a wealth of useful details about the group’s opinion.
During the focus group, the facilitator is also able to observe the participants’ nonverbal communication. Even though the sample size is typically less than with other forms of information gathering, the open discussion that results from group interaction is a very useful tool.
5. Transcribe and record the interview
It is advisable to record every interview but be aware that this may affect how much information participants feel comfortable sharing. If you’re talking about delicate subjects, take notes instead. Before taping any form of interview, always get permission. This is a fundamental research ethical principle.
After the interview is over and you have the audio or audio plus video, you may either transcribe it yourself (which takes a lot of time, but you learn the most this way), hire a transcriber, or utilise an automated transcription service. Finding trends in interviews that you might not have otherwise observed is made much easier by transcriptions.
6. ACKNOWLEDGE MEMBERS’ CONTRIBUTIONS
In addition to learning new things from these interviews, you also hope to strengthen your bonds with each participant. Therefore, even when the interview is over, your work is not done.
Send out a card, note, or other type of gesture of appreciation to everyone who helped with your shared objective. If they were willing to devote this time to you, they obviously care about you very much.
Once all of your interviews and thank-you notes have been sent out, you can start to look at key trends, such as interview terminology, the competitive environment of other communities in your domain, and original programming ideas that may not have occurred to you before you got to know your members better.
The best part is that you’ll have a handful deeper connections to build on over time.
WHEN INTERVIEWS ARE NOT THE BEST OPTION?
Interviews are not the only approach to obtain information, and depending on the circumstances, they may not even be acceptable or efficient.
For instance, extensive phone interviews can be costly and time-consuming. If you require information from a lot of people, mailed questionnaires can be a good option. Interviews are inefficient for gathering numeric data. It could be more suitable to ask your respondents to complete a form.
If interviewees are hesitant to cooperate, interviews will not be appropriate. Interviewees who are biased against you or your company won’t provide you the answers you need and might even mess up your findings.
Setting up an interview is a waste of time and resources when the subject is unwilling to speak. Therefore, you should choose a less direct method of acquiring the data you require.
WHOM SHOULD YOU INTERVIEW?
Naturally, the type of information you require will have an impact on the interviews you choose. In order to come up with ideas for your organization, you might wish to speak with the volunteer coordinator at one or two other successful organizations, for instance, if you’re trying to start a volunteer program for your organization.
On the other hand, you should choose members of the target audience to interview if you’re looking at how the community has reacted to a recent ad campaign. A focus group can be quite helpful in this situation.
Remember that most people enjoy talking about what they know and are especially ready to share their knowledge with others who are interested if you’re hesitant to approach a stranger for an interview. Your chances of landing a favorable interview will increase if you show interest.