5 things all Research Buyers need to know about Online Communities
Online communities are moving up in the market research world. Despite this, many buyers are still reluctant to use them above traditional groups. Why? Is it really the ‘chit chat and live interaction that gets people relaxed and telling the truth?’ Unlikely! Creative thinking flows more easily when people are not time pressured, and the truth comes out when social defenses are no longer necessary.
1. Online Communities encourage participants to be more open
Participants of Online Communities are exactly that – Participants. They are no longer ‘Respondents’ because they’re not simply responding to a series of frenzied questions asked by a tired moderator with 3 more groups to get through that day. Consumers ‘participate’ in the truest sense of the word, being encouraged to take their time to think things through before providing a response, hence likely to be more open and engaged online than off. In fact, people are much more likely to tell the truth when they do not have 7 strangers (more behind the mirror) causing palpitations about whether or not they are being acceptable!
2. Online Communities filter into the participant’s life
Participants make an active and conscious commitment to participate in an online community. They are not just rushing to a 2 hour grilling about shampoo after work, out of context and out of time. Each day they commit to logging on and answering new questions, responding to one another frequently and ensuring that they get to know one another on a deep level (sharing photographs, anecdotes, feelings, stories, task results, etc) – a much more profound sharing than would be the case in a rushed face to face group. Participants are also more likely to ‘carry’ awareness of the subject into their lives offline and tend to notice triggers and behaviours they then mention to us in the community.
3. Clients can easily be involved
Many research clients do not have the time to attend live focus groups and depth interviews. In addition, attendance by too many people either behind the mirror or in front, can cause disruption for respondents due either to questions being asked that are off topic, or the constant awareness of ‘being watched.’ As the end client of an Online Community qualitative research project, you can attend the research each day as much or as little as you like and will always be actively consulted in the questionning process. Questions are written in advance but can be changed and adapted at any point, as well as targeted at different participants within the community where it is necessary to separate out different types of consumer. It is usual to end the community with a ‘live online group’ to test hypotheses and theories that have come out of the research so far.
4. A wealth of information for analysis!
There is a knack to analysing online communities! Every community yields great quantities of information each day from typically 20-40 participants. Of course, this depends on how well your community is tailored and designed but generally you need to be looking at getting as much information as possible in as much psychological depth as you can. Analysis should be carried out by an experienced online moderator who is prepared to be constantly involved to ensure that the questions each day reflect the rolling nature of the research. If both moderation and analysis are not carried out on an ongoing and timely basis, there is a risk of losing key information which could feed into the next day’s questions or into the summary insights.
Consumers can be asked to use and analyse imagery, concepts, quotes, videos, adverts, objects, articles and stories. They can be tasked to interview people themselves, to fill in diaries and tables, to visit locations of interest and to send updates through mobile phones to the community.
5. Online Communities bring different demographics together in one place
Gone are the days when ‘oldies’ couldn’t be considered capable of online research (how rude)! Internet research grabs the interest and attention of customers and audiences of all ages in the UK from teens to the long retired. What’s more, true to the results of theDeath of the Demographic research I carried out for Smooth Radio in 2012, Online Communities can ‘take’ the mixing of demographics much more easily than would be the case in a traditional focus group. Questions can be tailored to one segment or the other where necessary. This of course saves you money!
If you would like to find out more about how a private and tailored Online Community could help your business to prosper, contact us for more information.