Research communities frequently run the danger of becoming resource-hungry beasts, with moderation one of the greatest demands placed on researchers’ time. Therefore your approach to moderation and activity planning should always be contingent on the number of members that you plan to include in your research community, together with the period of field / commitment required.
For shorter-term projects involving smaller samples (e.g., up to two weeks in length), we would typically recommend more intensive, discussion-based moderation (e.g., one to two topics every one to two days) to gain maximum value from your projects.
Conversely, for longer-term communities (e.g., those that run for several months and beyond), in particular those involving larger samples, less frequent engagement should be requested. This helps to make the project feasible on the basis of cost and resource. Here, we might consider greater emphasis on survey-based methods and shorter, more pointed discussions.
General Tips for Moderation and Management
Regardless of whether you are dealing with a shorter or longer-term community, the following tips will help you maintain healthy levels of conversation and engagement when it comes to moderation and management.
Be friendly, set the tone: Members will look towards you as the community manager to determine how they might behave and correspond. Liking encourages greater sharing.
Let natural conversation flourish: Allow a place in the research community for members to discuss topics of interest, regardless of whether they specifically address your research questions.
Use plain English and reflect the language of members: When providing instructions and task requirements, avoid marketing and research speak, and don’t forget to add plenty of context to set the scene.
- Stimulate deeper thought and reflection: Tired of hearing the same old answers? Challenge members by kicking off your activities with quotes, facts and findings, or stories that will inspire deeper reflection.
- Set missions and tasks: Consider opportunities to cede control and up-skill members. For instance, ask them to adopt the role of “mystery shopper” and share feedback on retail store displays, or have them interview friends and family members using a pre-developed discussion guide.
- Avoid topics that tread over the same old ground: Developing an overview of your community plan will help you to keep discussions fresh, and tailor upcoming content and activities to minimise levels of attrition.
- Offer plenty of licence for expression: Preference for community tasks varies amongst individual members– some prefer creative exercises, others prefer discussions and surveys. Regardless, it is always good practice to maintain variety in your research community task agenda to maintain interest.
- Retain space in your early community agenda: Allow room to flex the agenda and explore the ‘unknown unknowns’ in light of the early feedback. This will increase the prospect of eliciting fresh new insight(s).
- Keep discussions focused: Avoid developing a discussion guide and deploying this as a research community ‘discussion’. The survey tool will enable you to apply structure to questioning and gather responses in an easier to manage digestible reporting format.
- Communicate the value of your requests: Members will respond better to requests if they understand how their efforts are contributing to the overall value of the project. Mutual purpose is a key intrinsic motivator and helps to drive participation.
To hear more about how to improve research community engagement we encourage you to download our guide