Myth-busting – The case for online insight communities in France

According to ESOMAR, the World Association for Opinion and Marketing Research, the online community market represents nearly a billion dollars worldwide, 10% of which is in Europe. If we consider that the internet penetration rate is over 95% for France, we can reasonably assume that 90% of French internet users are members of at least one public or private community, such as Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp. So, why do French brands lag behind their European neighbours in adopting online research communities?

As Managing Director of InSites Consulting France, I was recently interviewed by ILEC (Institut de Liaison des Entreprises de Consommation or the Institute aimed at Connecting French consumer companies), to discuss our community expertise following a webinar we hosted for ILEC on the topic of the empowered consumer.

This blog post is a condensed version of the interview highlighting the main myths and misconceptions around the methodology to highlight the important role of communities in research, also in France.

Myth #1 – The majority of community members are silent

First, we need to distinguish between public communities like Facebook, and so-called private or closed communities such as those we set up for clients. If we only observe human behaviour in public communities, we would expect 90% of members to just observe; they constitute the silent majority. 9% of consumers will react and participate actively on social networks when a discussion is initiated, whilst only 1% will actually share or create content. This is known as the 1:9:90 rule which originated from Bradley Horowitz, VP at Google. It is not because we are on the internet that we share our opinion, contrary to what we thought ten years ago. 

Conversely, private communities are anything but silent. At InSites Consulting, we invite not only the “1%” and “9%” but also the “90%” to break the silence and get involved in our discussions. Having specialised in communities for more than ten years, we used the 1:9:90 rule to design our own typology of members:

  • 1% create; consumers who have new ideas, who have a lot of imagination, and who bring concrete solutions to our creative crowdsourcing community called eÿeka
  • 9% curate; consumers who will adapt or improve the ideas, enrich the opinions of others and detect upcoming cultural trends and movements, in our Illume network.
  • 90% validate; consumers who react to an idea and give an opinion. They don’t necessarily have a great imagination, but they know very well what they want (and what they don’t want, especially) and can voice their opinion clearly. These are invited on our bespoke Square platforms. 

Myth #2 – Not all sectors and categories can benefit from online communities

The truth is that all sectors can benefit from organizing a private community where consumers can react and discuss their experiences, but admittedly some industries are more involved than others. In particular, sectors whose products are purchased very frequently, such as food and drink, or those whose products are very technological and from the outset include the consumer at the centre of the product. We also see a strong interest in sectors that revolve around customer experience, such as banking and finance, but also media, telecommunications, mobility/automotive and leisure.

By working with clients in multiple countries, we have also realised that intensity does not depend on the location of consumers (France or outside of France), but above all on the categories and brands they are collaborating with. Certain sectors such as insurance have difficulty recruiting enthusiasts, but there are subjects in the insurance world that can also interest and excite, such as the economy, savings or innovation. To avoid a lack of intensity linked to low interest in a brand or a category, we invite ‘interesting’ and ‘interested’ people to our communities. The interesting people are the brand’s target group, whilst the interested people are passionate about the brand or the sector and have an opinion on the subject. By mixing the two profiles, a community becomes more interactive and therefore more involved. 

Myth #3 – Consumers want face-to-face interaction

In our view, automated and technological tools must always be accompanied by a human presence. We therefore offer hybrid solutions between digital and human. In the end, technology does not change lives; human beings do. It all starts with the moderator, whose role is key to bringing people to our platforms, to getting to know the local culture and to be the spokesperson for the community. Participants need a real face, and the moderator is the embodiment of that.

Another way to humanize digital is to ask community members to participate in ethnographic activities where they can share photos or videos on their real life. We also offer a ‘Consumer Connect’ program, which gives our clients the ability to connect directly with their consumers through online discussions via teleconference. We also run face-to-face sessions, with consumers from the community joining the marketing teams in meetings at company offices.

The case for online insight communities in France

Lockdown has proven that digital connection can play an important role in connecting humans. While the virtual never replaces the physical, brands must understand the consumer in an interactive, flexible, structural and continuous way. The online community is an accelerating agent for this ambition. In many neighbouring countries, this is the standard, France is unfortunately behind.

As a shining example, Danone’s online community, ‘Le monde du Yaourt’ or The World of Yogurt, addresses both tactical questions (the colour of a new logo, name of a new product etc.) and strategic topics (responsibility of a brand, sustainability etc.). In this (private) community one hundred and fifty consumers from all over France share their opinions and express their needs on an ongoing basis. For four years now, Danone, and more specifically the dairy products marketing team, have been listening, learning and collaborating, to make better and faster consumer-centric decisions.

Eager for more? Request a free demo of our proprietary insight community platform or read the full interview with ILEC (in French).

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