Yup, you read that right I used WhatsApp messenger to conduct a diary study. Yup, it felt like a full-time job chatting with 20 participants for 7 days (including the weekend😲), but I would 100% do it again.
“A diary study is a research method used to collect qualitative data about user behaviors, activities, and experiences over time. In a diary study, data is self-reported by participants longitudinally — that is, over an extended period of time that can range from a few days to even a month or longer. During the defined reporting period, study participants are asked to keep a diary and log specific information about activities being studied.”
WhatsApp & our users
WhatsApp was chosen as through a marketing audit of the Boiler Room community, the majority of users were familiar and confident with the instant messaging app. Weighing this up against onboarding them with more specific tools would have made the study longer and potentially cause participants to opt out prior to the start.
WhatsApp & budget
Money is a sensitive topic, but with WhatsApp being a free app, It meant the research budget which was partially going to be used to pay for a specific diary study tool, was used to reward participants for their time and effort over the 7 days.
WhatsApp & Drop off rates
Although every diary study goes through the onboarding phase of recruiting committed participants, things happen and sometimes you don't get a reply. The joy of using WhatsApp meant I was able to quickly see who had read messages and prompt them in a friendly manner. Messages sent were always in a relatable Boiler Room-esque tone of voice so that users never felt as if they participating a repetitive study. What was interesting and refreshing during the study was some users became proactive and treated the messages as a personal diary without any prompts, which went beyond what I expected and gave the results more context.
WhatsApp diary study in action
Only use WhatsApp if it's an app your user base are familiar with.
Download the WhatsApp app on a laptop, desktop or tablet, the larger screen made managing participants messages and off script personal replies easier as well as giving a fuller view of the participants as a whole.
Plan your messages thoroughly and maintain a tone of voice, I scripted every message I could send so that depending on participant replies/ lack of replies I didn't have to overthink what i had to say.
Due to the speed of replies, data collection can be a time consuming task if left until the end. I’d recommend making an excel sheet split by participants, and inputting their replies as they come in or end of day.
I’ve attached my Listening Habits Test Plan for anyone who wants to give this a try.