Key learnings on size and composition of online research communities
Online research communities have become a common methodology over the past 10 years. Many agencies have embraced this digital way of doing qualitative research, as it clearly showcases benefits, such as in-context data, context visualization and high participant engagement (because of asynchronicity). At InSites Consulting, we started with research communities back in 2008, and we have established learnings and listed best practices with our clients across the globe. We were invited to share these learnings at the first virtual PUMa plenum organized by planung & analyse on April 6.
Amongst the myriad of benefits that online communities offer, there are three key learnings on the size and composition of your community network that are critical to success.
Learning #1: acknowledge the 90-9-1
In a population of 100 people, 90 can help you validate and evaluate, 9 can help you curate and only 1 can help you create. So, when setting up an online community, be very aware of the type of consumers you wish to invite to take part, based on your research objectives.
At InSites Consulting, we can tap into three different communities to involve the right people at the right time:
- our proprietary online research community platform, the Square;
- our Illume Network of cultural curators; and
- our global eÿeka community of +425,000 creatives.
Learning #2: community size can be calculated but should always allow for visitors
One of the biggest challenges when building a structural community is deciding on network size and composition. Many variables have an influence on those, like type of research activities, intensity of research activities and target groups. We typically use the following formula:
Still, practice shows that covering all requested (sub-)targets might blow up the size of your community too much, and low activity levels for specific targets will diminish engagement levels. That’s why we advise working with residents and visitors on your community. The residents represent your core target and are always there for you. The visitors represent your sub-targets or even niche targets, and can be recruited additionally for a specific study.
Learning #3: participant engagement is hard work
In order to keep participants engaged on your research community, you need to bring forward your creativity. Many dimensions help create and maintain high participant engagement levels.
Firstly, participants wish to be recognized, which can be done by installing a loyalty program and sharing random acts of kindness.
Secondly, consumers see value in learning something! Client feedback is highly appreciated here.
Thirdly, creating a feeling of exclusivity is a good way to keep participants engaged. Sharing personal blogs or videos from the client works very well.
Fourthly, make life easy for them. Short surveys and snappy tasks are key. Ditch the 20-minute surveys; and if you do need to ask that many questions, then chunk it to dunk it.
Last but not least, make them forget they are participating in research. Make it fun. Gamification works; think of quizzes, battles or games.
Building an online research community comes with some challenges, but all can be overcome if you put yourself in the shoes of your respondent…
- Acknowledge their skills and, therefore, what you expect from them.
- Know their relationship with your portfolio so they always have something to do.
- Entertain them!
If you start your community with these three ingredients, the recipe will taste delightful!