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When to invest in a long-term online research community

Published 27 May 2021 3 minute read

Online qual
Research communities

At Further, we get proposals through on a daily basis to set up and run short term online communities. However, in some cases there may be great benefits to running extended or long-term online communities of a more qualitative, exploratory nature that lets you get more up close and personal with people, their choices and their behaviours over time.

For example, OMD have hosted 'Your Voice', a successful long-term community, on our Together platform for years. Within the community, OMD’s research and community management team conduct regular testing of communication campaigns, conduct customer journey research to understand decision-making and explore product categories for their clients.

Why do online qual?

It's worth quickly recapping the main benefits of online qual per se. Online qualitative research communities are ideal for most insight, innovation and co-creation projects. Mobile ethnography is ideal for exploring people’s journeys through life, in-the-moment and in context. With both, you can enhance and speed up insight generation because you can:

  • Reach people wherever they are in the world and outside of main cities - broadening the range of insight
  • Get closer to consumers - in their own world, at home, at work, in stores, on the move...
  • Gather rich, multifaceted evidence not just on explicit ‘attitudes’ and ‘beliefs’ but also on implicit emotions and overt behaviours
  • Show you - through photos and videos - your audience and evidence to bring you closer to what is meaningful to them
  • Give you and your audience more flexibility - because online communities unfold over time, are flexible and iterative, participants will have time reflect and share more considered, detailed and nuanced answers.
Long Term Communities

A true online qualitative community is more about relationships and digging deeper into people’s lives and more immediate thoughts on an ongoing basis (whether that is moderator led or participant led). Beyond the obvious, in terms of a project’s duration, what sets long term communities apart is the time you need to dedicate to keeping it running smoothly, and the level of planning required to maximise engagement and insight generation (just like how you might approach a campaign).

It’s also worth noting that a qualitative long term community is very different in nature and strategy than a long term community panel. Firstly, you will have a smaller sample size with a qualitative long term community, thus inevitably create deeper relationships with community members. Secondly, you will be using qualitative tools and techniques to generate insight, which produces multi-dimensional data such as text, photo and video. Thirdly, you can create a true community using online qualitative communities as people can follow each other, their posts and share thoughts and feedback with each other.

A lot goes into building successful long-term qualitative communities that might not be as critical for a shorter term project. Points to consider include:

  1. Your long term engagement strategy, that is your plan to ensure that your community becomes a destination for its participants. A good question to ask yourself is ‘What will encourage people to come back?’
  2. The cost and resources that it will take to keep the community engaged with experienced moderation to maximise the sample size as long as possible
  3. The way in which you manage workflows, in terms of managing requests for the community, how it will be used and how you will make your life easier by its very existence (this can be in terms of templating guides or reports)
  4. Making sure you have the right type of people to join the community and that everyone is clear about what decisions can be made from participant feedback and what should be done with another type of audience or research method
  5. You need to plan for variety. Building a plan for a variety and mix of studies you want to do and the kind of feedback that will be most valuable to clients that will make a difference to them on a long-term basis
  6. The outputs you and your client(s) are looking for. For example, if your client is looking for a bunch of stats, then you’re probably more in need of a community panel
  7. The flexibility of the software platform you'll use to run the community. Also, how open the platform API is for integrating new technologies - as and when they appear
  8. The aesthetics - the style and tone of voice you'll adopt, the look and feel of community
  9. When to top up with fresh respondents as attrition is inevitable or when you think is best to bring on fresh thinking from new community members

The benefits of a long-term community:

  • You can build trust and rapport to gather more honest feedback on the brand and on people's preferences and lifestyle
  • You'll see behaviours unfold over time. These can be tracked
  • They're more time efficient from study start to end in terms of lead time and planning
  • You'll get stakeholders more invested in the voice of the customer - they can log in at any time to see activities unfold, they can also have the researcher ask specific questions at any point in time
  • They're less costly, in terms of recruitment
  • You can build in autonomous functions like discussion forums or social feeds, you can start uncovering insights about your audience you might not get from your research focused questions
Choosing a long term community platform

Together is our community research platform with a range of tools that enable exploration, validation, collaboration and innovation. In the past year, Together has engaged more than 250,000 people, from 150+ countries in 35 languages. It's activity based - there are 9 activity types to help diversify the data you are collecting and also to make the participant experience feel more creative and engaging.

Want to find out more visit our help centre and discover more about our online qual and research community platform.

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