At Slover Linett, we spend a lot of time thinking about social media and participatory engagement. Our clients often ask us how they should be evaluating the impact of their social media efforts, or how the new technologies can become research tools to track and understand audiences.
Great questions. But the implications are broader than that. In the socially networked, participatory era, institutions may have to change the way they think about their constituents and how they invite them into a dialogue. Traditional market research, evaluation, and assessment methods treat the audience as “respondents” whose job is to answer questions the organization thinks are important, “research subjects” under the microscope.
These days, that can feel a little...off. As our culture becomes more collaborative, informal, and diverse, we need to approach all kinds of research — from surveys to in-depth interviews to focus groups — as a natural extension of the participatory impulse.
Maybe that’s why we’re doing more audience panels lately. Unlike a standard focus group, panels put you in the room with the participants, so your team can talk and work with them elbow-to-elbow, grappling with the questions and possibilities together. Panels aren’t right for every research challenge, but they’re an exciting, participatory technique that educational and cultural institutions should have in their repertoire.
If you’d like to talk about how panels and other emerging research methods can help turn your audiences into collaborators, drop us a line. Meanwhile, check out our latest news and blog posts, below.
— The Slover Linett Team