How to Make Money with Online Focus Groups


Every single year, American corporations and large businesses located all over the world spend billions of dollars on consumer intelligence. They don’t have a choice. If they make the wrong decision based on insufficient data, their new product or campaign will fail. We’re talking about possibly billions of dollars in losses. That’s how much money is at stake when it comes to getting consumer sentiment right.

This is where you come in. You can make money participating in online focus groups. By sharing your opinion, you can earn a decent sideline income. The best part? You can work whenever you want wherever you want because this is done on the Internet.

Here is the inside scoop on how to make money participating in online focus groups.

What are Online Focus Groups?

Online focus groups are specially assembled groupings of people that fit a certain demographic. Not everybody could participate. Each focus group is specially created to target a narrow range of people.

These people have certain tastes, viewpoints, and impressions that the focus group organizers are interested in finding more about. Focus group organizers collect information about product preferences, consumer needs, quality of life issues, and even personal values.

What Do Focus Group Platforms Do with the Information They Collect?

Keep in mind that focus group data is anonymous. They’re not going to share your name on the Internet. That’s not what they’re in it for.

Instead, focus group organizers take collected statistical data and present it to the companies that commissioned those focus groups. These companies are looking for guidance on what kinds of problems their target audiences have. They may have come up with an idea for a product before they spend millions or even tens of millions of dollars on an expensive marketing campaign, they would want to know if their intended customers warm up to the product.

You would be surprised as to how many products are created every year by successful companies only to fail. In fact, the majority of new product campaigns don’t do all that well. They don’t all fail miserably but enough do to make this whole thing very expensive.

Companies are always looking to base their decisions on data. They’re not excited about spending millions of dollars on campaigns based on a hunch. Think about it this way. You might think that an idea or a product is the hottest thing since sliced bread. Hey, everybody is entitled to their opinion. The problem is if there are not enough people like you who are excited about a particular product or solution or service, whatever it is you are promoting is going to fail. The market simply isn’t big enough.

This is what focus groups are all about. They do a good job figuring out the needs of target audiences. They come up with a composite of the psychology behind the demand for a particular product or service. With this information, companies are able to craft better products and matching marketing campaigns.

Does this mean that data-driven marketing programs always succeed? Of course not. But tell you what, your chances of succeeding with data-driven marketing is much higher than if you’re just going on a hunch. Put simply, online focus groups take a lot of the guesswork out of expensive marketing and product development campaigns.

What Other Uses Do Companies Get Out of Online Focus Groups?

There are focus groups organized to tease out customer needs. In these types of focus groups, the company commissioning the study and testing don’t already have a product design in mind. They have a vague idea that they want to launch a product or a new service, but they can’t quite put their finger on what specific type of product they should develop.

Again, this is where you come in. If you are in the target demographic group of the company, you will be given questions to discuss among fellow focus group participants regarding your personal needs. Using this information and crunching the numbers and passing them through statistical models, companies come up with probable product ideas.

Instead of just taking a shot in the dark as to what kind of service or product to come up with, when product designers have statistical data, they can at least narrow down the wide range of new offering possibilities they could take on.

Again, this takes a lot of the guesswork out of the product and service development process. This also means extra money for you.

How Do Online Focus Groups Operate?

There are many online focus group platforms out there. Some use mobile apps. Others take the form of traditional websites. It doesn’t matter how different they may look on the outside; they pretty much function the same way once you’ve joined.

Usually, it all begins with screening. You go to the website and you type in demographic information.

Here is a short list of the most common demographic indicators online focus groups require:
• Your sex
• Your location
• Age range
• Income level
• Education level

There are other demographic indicators that some focus groups may require but, for the most part, the factors that I have listed above are the most common.

Once you have filled out their form, the automated form will tell you if you qualify for a specific focus group. If you don’t, the system will tell you to check back in later to see if there is an available focus group in the future that caters to your demographic group. Maybe you are in the wrong age range. Perhaps you don’t make enough money or you make too much money. Possibly, you’re not interested in a particular type of product or you don’t have certain needs.

Just because you get “rejected,” it doesn’t mean that you can’t come back. It doesn’t mean that you can’t possibly make any money with this online focus group. All it means is that there is no existing focus group that you’re qualified for today. Tomorrow, it may change.

How Do Focus Groups Operate Once You Qualify?

Assuming that you qualify for a particular focus group study, you will be given a set of questions, and then depending on the needs of the client, you may be required to turn on your webcam so you can interact with other focus group participants. Generally speaking, that is too expensive and logistically, it is too much of a hassle.

For the most part, a lot of online focus groups just require your written feedback. You will be given a lot of questions and then you’re supposed to just give feedback. Sometimes you’re shown different images and you are supposed to give feedback.

How are Online Focus Groups Different from Online Surveys?

Online surveys are strictly individual. The questions that you’re given are intended primarily to just read you out or come up with a statistical profile based on how similar you are to the rest of the people taking the survey.

An online focus group, on the other hand, actually requires your opinion. Surveys are more of like fill-in-the-blanks or multiple-choice types of forms. There’s nothing wrong with that.

However, it doesn’t take a genius to see that model of consumer intelligence gathering is very restrictive. You’re stuck with whatever options the survey designer gives you. What if they couldn’t see the most obvious and most important multiple-choice answer? Whoever commissioned the survey is out of luck.

Surveys turn on quality design. That’s what makes them powerful. That’s also what makes them very weak and vulnerable.

Online focus groups, on the other hand, are more open-ended. You’re welcome to share your opinion. You’re welcome to share your insights.

What is the Challenge for Online Focus Group Platforms?

When a company lays out a focus group panel, they can get a lot of feedback. That’s not the problem. They can get all sorts of insights regarding a narrow range of topics. This might seem like a good thing, but the problem is the data is coming in a very non-standard format.

The beauty of surveys is that there are only five choices. You give values to these five choices, and when you get the data back, it’s very easy to sort and it’s very easy to make all sorts of predictions based on the data form.

You don’t have to guess what somebody truly means. You don’t have to worry about how to sort a particular answer because, let’s face it, different people think in different ways. We look at the world differently. We express our opinion with different words. We may mean the same thing but we use different words. It also works in reverse. We may mean totally different things but we use the same words. Do you see how confusing this gets?

This is the main challenge of online focus groups. When given a choice, corporate marketing departments would rather use standardized survey data. It’s not because they distrust online focus groups. It’s not because they think that focus group data is completely unworkable and useless. Instead, it’s just a matter of logistics.

A lot of people who fill out online focus group forms use very vague sentences. You really can’t make heads or tails of these sentences so you ultimately have to make a judgment call. Once you do that, then you are vulnerable to all sorts of bias.

How Do Online Focus Groups Work around “Squishy” Data?

Squishy data is a term for vague feedback. You can classify or categorize this feedback in a million and one ways. Depending on your personal biases and your background, you can make a good argument that somebody’s feedback supports your positions or not. That’s squishy data.

Since this is very problematic and takes a lot a lot more resources than many companies are willing to spend, online focus groups tie down feedback by using agree parameters. They would say “Strongly disagree,” “Somewhat disagree,” “Slightly disagree,” “Neutral,” “Slightly agree,” “Somewhat agree,” “Strongly agree.” This sounds like a survey but it dries up or flat-out eliminates any vagueness.

They also use word lists. They would come up with a long list of words and they would say, “What word do you think best summarizes your feelings about this product or this idea?” They would go through the list of the words and then they will select one. Again, this takes a lot of the guesswork out of the typical focus group data set.

How can You Make Money Online by Participating in Online Focus Groups?

You just need to follow the steps below. Find focus group platforms. You can try Mindswarms or 20/20 Panel. These are great focus groups platforms. You can also look for similar platforms that operate the same way.

Keep in mind that different focus groups require different time commitments. Some basically would ask you to answer a ton of questions and would test your impressions on a lot of issues regarding a specific topic. The good news is they pay you more.

One of the best-paying is How much money can you make with this program? You can earn as much as $250 per focus group session. The best part about is the fact that you don’t have to be a US resident.

I’m sure if you are researching the topic of making money with online focus groups, you have realized that a lot of the highest-paying programs require US residency. Your IP address, your computer, and you physically must be in the United States. Everywhere else simply just pays too little.

The great thing about is it takes international traffic. Of course, there’s a sliding scale, but this fact alone is something to get excited about. A lot of focus groups simply reject you if you’re logging in from places outside of tier 1 countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Western Europe.

20/20 Panel

20/20 Panel, as I mentioned above, is a great place to start; however, you need to live in the United States to get the best rates. How good are their rates? Believe it or not you can get paid as much as $2500. Here is the secret with 20/20 Pane: the more local you are, the better.

Here’s the problem. Oftentimes, there might not be a local focus group targeting your specific location. So, that’s the risks that you run with 20/20 Panel. Still, if you get lucky and there is a focus group for your region, the payday can be quite attractive.

Survey Junkie

As its name indicates, it’s mostly a survey website. Please check my blog post on taking online surveys so you can maximize your income with Survey Junkie. With that out of the way, Survey Junkie also includes focus groups from time to time. Usually, you can get paid to test products as well as interact with people in focus groups.

Here’s the downside. Survey Junkie’s focus groups require you to physically show up to a location. It’s bad enough that you have to find a focus group that caters to your demographic; it makes all that much harder to find a focus group that is targeting your area.

However, if you are lucky enough to qualify for a live face-to-face focus group, you can get paid as much as $150 for your appearance. Not too bad for an hour or a couple of hours work.

The Final Word on Online Focus Groups

Online focus groups are a legitimate way to make money online. Generally speaking, you can make more money with online focus groups than you would with online survey platforms. With that said, you really have to hustle to make good money with online focus groups because they are much more selective than survey platforms. While they do pay a lot more, they also tend to filter out a lot more applicants.

If you are looking for 25 ways to earn a sideline income using your Internet connection, check out this blog post. I have listed out a lot of ways to make money online without you having to spend a dime.

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