WhatsApp Research: Practical Tips for Success

22 March 2024 by
4 minutes read
WhatsApp Research: Practical Tips for Success

You’re here because you’ve used WhatsApp for Research, or maybe you’d like to but don’t know where to start. If you haven’t already, take a look at why WhatsApp is so great, particularly when used for in-the-moment research. WhatsApp is perfect for truly understanding your audience, so we see lots of researchers using it – albeit with differing success. The thing is, you can’t just set up a WhatsApp task willy nilly and hope you get answers you want. To be genuinely valuable, you need to really understand the tool in the context of research. Here are a few tips to get you started:


1. Get informed consent

There’s a reason this is at the top of the list – it’s the most crucial thing you must do without exception, as it is for any research. Participants have the right to know the purpose of the research, the data you will collect, and how you will use it. You need explicit permission from participants to use WhatsApp and let them know about their right to withdraw from the study at any time.

2. Offer decent rewards

Participants are busy people, and like the rest of us, they rarely want to give up their free time for nothing. While it’s a pain to organise, incentives are super important to get participants to engage with the research. They’re usually paid through cash or vouchers (speak to your recruiter for suggestions of how much to allow), but we’ve seen some creative uses recently, like donating to charities for example. Of course whatever you do, beware of frugging (offering money off of your own products in exchange for research).

3. Maintain participant confidentiality

WhatsApp in itself gives off a lot of personal data (profile picture, name and mobile number). Always respect the privacy of your participants by protecting their identity and personal information. Whether you use WhatsApp on it’s own or as an integrated platform like Whycatcher, make sure participants’ data is always secure and cannot be seen by anyone who shouldn’t have access.

4. Establish clear guidelines and expectations

Like any research piece, success is all in the brief – always let participants know what is expected of them. Tell them how often to expect questions, how long it will take to respond, and if there are particular times (or occasions) you expect them to respond. Setting expectations upfront will help manage participant involvement effectively, and make sure that they set aside time to participate.

5. Make tasks interesting

With so many different ways to collect responses on WhatsApp, you can be a bit more creative with your questions. Don’t just ask for text responses because it’s easy – set challenges and ask for different types of media responses – not only does this give you a better insight into their lives, but showing participants’ images and videos makes for killer reporting.

6. Go easy on the word count

Phone screens are massive these days, but you still wouldn’t want to read the entire works of George Orwell on one, would you? The same can be said for WhatsApp research – this isn’t the place for lengthy questions that require at least 3 scrolls to read. People will struggle to follow the questions, and honestly, probably won’t answer them properly either. Remember this next time you write your WhatsApp research questions. Keep your questions short and concise, and cut out any fluff that’s not needed.


1. Use WhatsApp for sensitive questions

WhatsApp isn’t the space to talk about feminine hygiene or sexual orientation. While we’re traversing a special space between a focus group situation and being in participants’ back pockets, we want them to feel comfortable. So WhatsApp works better for more everyday topics that won’t cause offence or sensitivity.

2. Confuse participants

As researchers, we sometimes forget this important nugget. Participants don’t always understand jargon. So keep the language simple and avoid unnecessarily complex words – this works wonders for general comprehension and engagement.

3. Send large data files

With so many uses for WhatsApp in research, it can be tempting to test data-heavy stim on mobile. Don’t do this, without prior warning. Even though data allowances are far higher than they were, you still may catch out participants with smaller allowances, which could lead to frustration. If you do want to test stim on WhatsApp – make sure you brief them carefully and suggest they connect to a strong wifi connection first.

4. Pack too much into a task

Similarly, there is a real danger of cramming too much into a WhatsApp task to extract every bit of insight from every question. WhatsApp tasks don’t work like that. Just as a depth interview should only be as long as it absolutely needs to, the same should be said for WhatsApp tasks. If you make it any longer ‘just because’, participants will fatigue and you will get poor quality responses.


Clearly we love WhatsApp over at Whycatcher and we’re the digital experts when it comes to WhatsApp research. You can gather your responses via WhatsApp and see the data in real-time via our easy to use Whycatcher dashboard. To find out more, check out our website or get in touch here

Written by

Maria is our Digital Lead.

She is curiously passionate about human behaviour, tech and data. So Whycatcher is truly home for her.

Maria can solve a rubix cube in 1min 12 seconds and has 63 houseplants (so probably needs to get out more).