The popularity of Facebook (FB) has led researchers to seek ways of using the social media platform in their empirical research. One approach is to use FB’s secret groups tool to conduct asynchronous online focus groups. In this research note, I outline the steps to using FB secret groups along with the strengths and weaknesses of this approach. I used FB’s secret groups function to conduct three asynchronous online focus groups. I recruited caregivers of children with sensory processing disorder or “sensory issues” who took part by writing about their experiences online. By using Facebook secret groups, the researcher can meet participants in a setting they are familiar with (i.e., FB) which reduces the barriers to participating in a research study. The researcher, however, gives up some control over the research setting. This report fills a gap in the literature with a description of the logistics of using Facebook for online focus groups; this description is designed to help future researchers use this method in their studies of harder-to-reach populations (e.g., parents or caregivers).


Online Focus Group, Facebook Secret Groups, Asynchronous, Social Media, Hard to Reach Populations, New Media

Author Bio(s)

Stephanie Medley-Rath is an assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University Kokomo. Her research interests include the sociology of autobiography, cognitive sociology, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Her research has been published in Symbolic Interaction, Teaching & Learning Inquiry, and Community College Journal of Research and Practice. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: smedleyr@iuk.edu.


I thank Erin F. Doss, Scott R. Harris, and Saori Yasumoto, for their insightful feedback on earlier drafts of this paper. I thank the 27 mothers who shared intimate details of their family’s lives. I also thank Rachel M. Rath for alphabetizing the references. An Indiana University Kokomo Summer Faculty Fellowship supported this research. FUNDING An Indiana University Kokomo Summer Faculty Fellowship supported this research.

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