With customer closeness seated firmly on the agenda for so many corporations and CEOs, it is perhaps unsurprising to see that the majority of Market Research agencies are now either using, or considering using an online research community (source: GRIT report).There are several aspects that distinguish an online research community from survey based panels, that make them particularly useful for exploring brand-customer relationships and experiences on a sustained basis.
Beyond emphasis on using smaller, intensively moderated samples, members have the ability to comment on each others feedback, which can enhance relationships, and reveal new and unchartered territories - the questions (and answers) that lie beyond the brief and initial hypotheses - the ‘unknown unknowns’.
Indeed, member to member commentary and interaction has long been considered to be one the hallmarks of an effectively moderated and engaged community. However, the reality, is that unless you are:
a) using a structured approach to collaboration
b) discussing a ‘high interest / high engagement’ topic, and / or;
c) sustaining levels your engagement on a long term basis (e.g. beyond several weeks)
Then natural spontaneously occuring online interaction rarely extends beyond members reading other members posts.
Of course, the ability for members to read other members responses is still important, and its value should not be underestimated. The ability to read other posts encourages deeper thinking and reflection, satisfies natural curiousity, and helps to build the ‘social glue’ that keeps members coming back, reducing reliance on monetary incentives (particularly important for long-term programmes).
However, if you are seeking more advanced member to member interaction (for instance if collaboration and co-creation forms part of your agenda), effective planning is going to be required to heighten levels of community engagement and commitment.
Over the next two weeks we are going to reveal tips to apply more structured approaches to collaboration, starting with recruitment.
In the meantime, do feel free to check out earlier tips for effective community planning and download our guide for online qualitative research.