Research Communities Smartees at #insites

Last Thursday at our head office in Ghent, we organized a Smartees about research communities. The day had a double agenda, literally. The morning we talked about research communities and the impact and possibilities for marketers, we dedicated the afternoon for researchers. In the morning we proudly had Steven van Belleghem, Tom De Ruyck and Thomas Troch presenting, in the afternoon, Prof. Dr. Niels Schillewaert presented about online research and the enacting of stakeholders, followed by Tom and Thomas, again. In this article, you’ll find the presentations and a take-away from what is said and done.

Keynote 1: Steven van Belleghem
“Why do you have to wait with the setting up of a community when you’re facing a crisis. Why not be pro-active?” An important question Steven van Belleghem asked the audience during his kickoff of the day. Research communities as a marketing instrument to get a good sense of the pulse of your consumers and brand lovers: why not use it to create a listening culture and be conversational, Van Belleghem asked rhetorically.
Paradox: The paradox is, Van Belleghem notes, that companies say they care about their customers, but actually don’t. Ask yourself the question: Are happy clients important? Yes, is almost always the answer by every marketeer. The next question should be: “Are you serious about it. Are you doing everything possible to make your clients happy?” There’s 3 types of companies that say they care and are on their way to create a listening culture. 16 percent just says “this is not for me”, 77 percent is in the checklist-phase trying to live up to the promise of doing everything possible for 100 percent customer satisfaction, and only 7 percent is in the “all the way” phase.
Social media policy and listening culture: 32% of companies have a social media policy, today. 42 percent of the companies say they don’t care about social media policies. Van Belleghem, said, in a rather bold statement: “If you need a social media policy, your hr-department failed. You hired the wrong people, or you have the wrong company culture.”

There are two different types of companies: those with a specific team that listens and those with everybody listening. If everybody is listening, you create a listening culture, and break the barriers between your company and your clients and consumers.
Keynote 2: Tom de Ruyck
Tom de Ruyck Twitter), Senior Manager ForwaR&D Lab at InSites Consulting, defined in his presentation four new roles for consumers in the ever changing landscape between companies and consumers. First, they can have the role of friends. In that role, you can better understand consumer’s need and get to know him. Another role is the consumer as an advocate: you let consumers identify with your brand. A third role is consumers as colleagues. The fourth way to bring consumers in the boardroom is as evaluators. Consumers are really asked to evaluate your companies’ concepts. You ask people to make the products better. Most marketers think they know their consumers, but they don’t. If you take consumers really serious they can be used as part-time marketers.
Key learnings about communities: How do we really make sure that a group of people in a research community is actively participating, sometimes for years, is a question De Ruyck’s answering in his presentation. Not every consumer is willing to take part in a research community. People that are willing to, identify quite strong with your brand and company, De Ruyck’s experienced. By nature, a community will not be a representative sample of the population: it’s a qualitative research-approach. “We’ve talked for far too long to people that have nothing to say,” De Ruyck claimed. How many people inspired you in your latest focus group, he asked the audience. Tom gives a personal example: he is not really a football lover. “Why the hell do you want to do market research about football with me?”
People answer in waves, is another key finding for Tom. We only need 30 conversations to make a decent qualitative analysis. After 30 conversations a saturation point is reached. 150 is the maximum number of participants for all the Insites’ research communities. It then becomes hard for participants to get to know each other and it becomes hard to manage, De Ruyck analyses. “We really want participants to be our partners: we want to know everything about him. Never underestimate the power of n=1.”
But: what does InSites do with the community’s? Tom: “I believe that research should become an experience. If it’s an experience for participants and for companies, it’s an experience for everybody.” Doing research via research communities requires more involvement and time from clients. Yes, it should be an experience, but this is also doing research, not just fun. So a lot of tasks are given, a lot of questions are asked. Then, there’s a story made. You’ll need to market your research project to participants. For Ben&Jerry’s, that’s probably easier than for a bank.
Gamification: Crushed ice is a community with the 100 coolest GEN Y’ers that want to participate in marketresearch. In the community, youngsters could share tips for the cities they live in, and there’s also a forum for couchsurfing: they share their homes together. That’s a tool for engagement, and it basically has nothing to do with research. But still, there’s a lot of questions asked to the research paticipants. One way to keep the community going is gamification. There’s an enormous boost to be seen in the reactions when the psychological dynamics of gaming are being used for research.
Badges, for example, are used by FourSquare and there’s always a battle going on between FourSquare users for mayorships. At one of the Unilever communities, there’s gamifaction implemented and it resulted in 5 times more conversations. Gamifying a community is causing more engagement and more conversations. The implementing of badges is not the only tool used, there’s also the strategy of leaders on stage. People who are performing very well in a community, can get access to a secret community. Another strategic tool or possibility in a gamified community is a battle between teams. Very important in this type of research, is a good moderator on the research firm’s site. But there’s also a person needed at the client’s side: commitment from the company, an internal ambassador, is also a must-have for success.
Keynote 3: Thomas Troch (Telenet Case)
Thomas is Community Manager at InSites Consulting, and did a project on conversation management for Telenet and the launch of Yelo. Telenet already introduced digital tv in 2005, Yelo is digital tv on your mobile device: the product is launched this month. From the launch of Yelo, the voice of the consumer was integrated in the whole project. There was a lot of feedback during the launch of Yelo, the press conference could be followed live, people could ask questions via Twiter that were directly answered by the Telenet team at Twitter. So Telenet opened up, asked people to co-create Yelo together and put a lot of effort in the tracking of the conversations.

A lot of conversations and feedback is nice, but there also should be something done with it. So for the follow-up, research and sentiment analyses was done. But there was also a pre-launch community started, that was a closed community. People could give input there, there were 1869 subscriptions, 100 people were selected. In 3 week there were more than 1500 comments. Users came up with a lot of little bugs, but also with bigger improvements and ideas. The improvements that consumers came up were implemented by the technology department at Telenet.
Keynote 4: Niels Schillewaert
Prof dr. Niels Schillewaert is Managing Partner at InSites, Niels’s keynote gave the researchers food for thought about the future of their business. While market research, in Schillewaert’s opinion, is in a state of Limbo.
Market research needs to inspire you, as a story.  A lot of research that is being commissioned doesn’t have the impact it should have. Marketing research needs to stimulate your thinking, Schillewaert adds. If you don’t inspire a marketer, he isn’t going to do anything with your research. Marketing research has become a commodity, if we don’t pay attention, we might disappear. We need to get closer to the consumer and to the marketer that is using our research.

Schillewaert made a comparison with the movie “Big” with Tom Hanks. In the movie a boy wishes to be big at a magic wish machine, he wakes up the next morning and finds himself in an adult body literally overnight. He starts working at a toy factory and is doing a great job there because he understands what kids like and that grants him access to management: he becomes the consumer in the boardroom.
Surveys: We’ve been overly using surveys, Schillewaert claims. 80 percent of the research we do is quantitative. “If you give people a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” We need an integrated toolbox. “People don’t pay attention to boring things,” is Schillewaert’s analyses regarding surveys: “We need to be relevant for both participants and marketeers.”
Research is of no use when managers do not respond to it. A picture is worth a 1000 words, an experience is like a movie. Thus, it’s interesting if a research is more a story. Make things vifit. The research method is a hygiene factor. Here we go:

  • Activate
  • Simple
  • Unexpected
  • Credible
  • Emotional
  • Storytelling
  • Sharing

Make sure that every research is a conversation starter. We need to EnAct, Schillewaert closes his talk. And EnAct…. that stands for engagement and activation. It’s easy, isn’t it? 🙂

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