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How to make video insights count in your research

It's simple. Clients love videos. Videos allow you to bring their customers into the boardroom, putting faces to personas. They're simple to capture on a mobile research platform too.

In many reports, it is often the video that is 'king'. However, this doesn’t mean that researchers always use them to best effect. Indeed, many studies go ‘video mad’ asking every question to be captured ‘selfie style’.

Now, while many participants might enjoy speaking away on their phones, there are drawbacks to using videos too liberally. The biggest one for me, is that they can be a nightmare to analyse without third party tools. Unlike text, you cannot easily scan a video for a phrase or idea, and in most cases it will take a number of viewings to really get to grips with both the content and subtext of the video. To add further complication, you will likely have to watch multiple videos during a single analysis section, jot down a plethora of notes and attempt to keep a comparative train of thought running throughout. This might be fine when you are fresh-faced and ready to research, but in the wee hours (burning the midnight oil ahead of an impending deadline), this can become problematic.

If you don’t have the luxury of costly video transcription software or services that allow for phrase or tag searching, I would save your video questions for when they will really matter. Make them work for you, rather than the other way round. 

Here are some useful guidelines. Request videos when...

  • You need to witness a behaviour or location.  Sometimes, you do not want to reply exclusively on what people tell you. You need to capture the context in which their emotions, thoughts, behaviours take place.
  • You need to compare what people say and what they do. This is related to the previous point. Sometimes, people are not aware of their own behaviours or they are motivated to present themselves in a certain light, which might not tell the full story. For instance, people might say that they have relatively healthy food behaviours, but when you ask them to video the content of their fridge and food cupboards, or to video their meals over the course of a few days, the results might give a very different impression.
  • Video summaries. After concept testing, journey tracking, or simply near the end of your study, tasking participants with summarising their thoughts can help your analysis and produce excellent report content. Provide participants with a list of prompts or talking points and set them loose. These videos can quickly capture the entire research experience and allow your client to feel like they are face-to-face with their audience. Because participants will select what they choose to comment on at the end of the study, their videos will provide you with some additional insights into their priorities.
  • Insight support. Don’t be afraid to request a video ‘on the hoof’. Participants can often cite behaviours or personal nuances during their text responses which might provide incredible value when supported with video. Targeting these moments and knowing when visual support might aid your overall objectives can enhance the quality of your research. We would always recommend using research tools that allow you to iterate activities on the go, focus on specific individuals or simply allow participants to provide media on their terms.
  • Break the ice and subtly authenticate your participants. We all know the value of the introductory task, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some perennial participants have grown bored of constantly introducing themselves at the start of every study. However, framing this activity as a video task can help you do more than provide personal context, especially if your study requires frequent video contributions. Ensuring that participants get used to sharing video from the very start allows them to get comfortable with the process, practice recording to your requirements and increase the overall effectiveness of this media format during your project. Another added benefit is that it allows you to check that the people who have signed up are who they claim to be:  consider it a friendly form of authentication for your participants.

Unless you can afford to incorporate third party analytical tools, minimising the use of video, but maximising its effectiveness, allows you to keep things interesting for participants whilst ensuring that you aren’t stuck watching your own research home movie.

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Written by John Whittle

Research specialist by day, sociologist by night. I'm obsessed with finding out the 'why' behind every behaviour, tradition and emotion. Also fun at parties.

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