Have you ever wished you had a second opinion or a group of people you could poll to help with your decision-making process. Politicians, product designers, and advertisers do it all the time. They often will conduct a focus group, which is a small sample of people, in order to get feedback, test theories, or to conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis on their issue or concern.
Focus groups are only one method in a researcher’s data collection arsenal, but this method is ideal for investigation because you can ask follow-up questions in response to answers by the participants. Creating a focus group may sound complicated, time-consuming, expensive, and/or inaccessible to the financially challenged. However, creating a focus group using twitter is fairly easy and simple to do in order to gather information on perceptions, opinions, beliefs or attitudes for a given subject.
Week two of the #SWHelper twitter study uses Twitter as the vehicle to conduct a focus group. The focus group was tasked with identifying recommendations to improve the social work degree on the BSW and MSW for the CSWE 2015 EPAS public commenting period. Social Work Helper advertised a live tweetchat on a specified date and those who were interested in discussing the innovation of the social work degree would be the participants for the focus group. The chat consisted of educators, students, and practitioners. Participants were asked several questions during the live chat, and then they were directed to a 7 question structured survey that took them outside of Twitter to complete.
Survey Result Highlights
When asked what is your primary concern for making changes to the social work degree, participants were given internship reform, more tech/business courses, or diversity courses to include more on lgbtq and reproductive justice as their answer choices. The results were 38 percent chose internship reform, 33 percent chose tech and business courses, and 27 percent chose the diversity answer. As the secondary concern, participants identified diversity with more lgbt and reproductive justice education at 40 percent. With over 70 percent stating there is not enough diversity education in this area in a separate yes or no question.
When asked about the types of internship reform for the BSW, participants were given the choices to reduce to 100 hours with more core classes, 200 with more core classes, remain at 400 hours, or the ability to customize based on need and work experience. For BSW internship reform, 53 participants stated students should have the ability to customized based on need and work experience with over 70 percent giving the same answer when asked about MSW internship reform.
Week’s Best Tweets
There was also a tweetchat after party that lasted for hours after the live event, but I didn’t have the stamina to continue. However, I will be able to measure those tweets as part of the of the detail study. We saw several issues emerge such as access to online education and tech access as a social justice issue. Focus groups can identify issues that may not have been on the researcher’s radar for initial consideration. However, these issues were only allowed to emerge through conversation and follow-up. To view the full tweetchat archive, go to http://sfy.co/dczv.
Challenges, Barriers, and Limitations
Taking participants off-site to complete a survey may have an effect on the number of survey participants because it takes them away from live engagement. Additionally, while conducting your focus group, participants may actually influence attitudes and opinions of other twitter users through their combined reach and potential reach during your data collection process.
Next Week Tweetchat
Join us on 3/30 at 3PM EST using the hashtag #SWHelper for Week 3 of the Twitter Study. We will be exploring using Twitter for the purpose of community organizing. For this tweet chat, I will be asking participants to identify organizations and hashtags these organizations use on Twitter in order to encourage #socialwork interaction. I will compile this information from the live twitter chat to create a twitter list for promoting interdisciplinary communication and learning via Twitter.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of USAbility.gov