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What are Research Communities?

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Online research communities are trending as one of the most popular ways for market researchers to capture qualitative customer data. 

In fact, 60% of respondents in the latest Greenbook Research Industry Trends report say they are using online communities. 82% show interest in research communities and 22% consider using them.

It’s no surprise that market researchers and companies are adopting research communities considering the robust benefits, including the following:

  • Real-time access to qualitative customer data.
  • The ongoing collaboration of community members for a deep look into customer opinions.
  • Quick and easy insights from engagement on social media platforms.
  • A cost-effective way to bring customer insights into one platform.

If you’re interested in learning more about what research communities are so you can get started, keep reading.

What is an online research community?

An online research community is a market research technique that uses the internet to capture real-time, long-term and in-depth qualitative customer insights.

Rather than bringing a group of people into a physical location and conducting a focus group, a research community brings the discussion online to be managed via one single platform. With the use of this online platform, participants can offer opinions and feedback regarding a product, service, idea, etc., and the market researcher can observe comments and interactions over time.  

How a researcher sets up an online community is primarily up to the preference of the company or firm that is interested in the data. A researcher can set up an invitation-only, private online community. A private community is advantageous if you’re looking for feedback from a specific customer segment.

If you’re looking for more general feedback, or to find general trends, then you can opt to open a public research community for your whole audience. Researchers can observe how people interact with each other, what they discuss, and what questions and concerns people bring up most often.

Regardless of whether you set up a private community or a public one, you’ll be able to observe your customers’ comments in a natural online setting.

Research community best practices

The best research communities are ones with high engagement levels. Here are some best practices to help you get the most out of your research community.

1. Make it convenient and easy to get involved

If it’s not easy for people to join your community, they won’t. Similarly, if you want participants to provide feedback, you have to make it convenient. The best way to get high engagement rates is to make it easy for people to log in and allow them to access the community from any device.

2. Get as many people involved as possible

When you conduct a focus group, you only get feedback from a few participants. The luxury of an online community is you can engage 100+ people at a time. When you have insights from more people, your data will be better.

3. Encourage members to do the talking

To capture real data and opinions, it’s essential that your participants feel comfortable expressing themselves often and honestly. A good rule of thumb is to set some rules and guidelines from the get-go, encourage them to talk openly and freely, and only prompt and probe when it’s necessary.

4. Don’t be afraid to get personal

You indeed want participants to do most of the talking. However, there will be times when you need to step in and ask questions. If you feel like your audience is timid to share and you’re not getting responses, try sparking discussion by sharing one of your own experiences. If participants see you being open, it may make them feel more comfortable sharing too.

5. Stay active as a community manager

A good community manager will engage with the platform frequently. This could mean asking questions, reviewing comments, moderating, and analyzing. As you continually engage with the platform, you’ll start to see patterns and identify themes that will help you make better business decisions.

How to pick a top customer insight panel & online community research tool

There are several tools on the market to help you build customer insight panels and online communities, but not all are created equally. The best way to ensure your community will be successful is to pick the right tool. Here is what to look for in a software.

1. Easy for customers to use and self-service

If you want community members to engage often and freely, you need a platform that makes it easy to do so. This means the community should be accessible 24/7 via any digital platform.

2. Possible to segment community participants

Customer loyalty, satisfaction, and brand advocacy vary significantly across the board. Some customers are high-value, while other customers may only purchase from your brand one time and then seek out the competition. It’s essential to be able to segment your customers based on their value so that you can select the right participants for your community.

3. Mobile capable

Five billion people own smartphones, and 96% of Americans use a smartphone for various tasks, including participating in communities. Do yourself a favor and make your community available on mobile devices.

4. Quick access for internal teams

The most efficient platforms make it easy for internal teams and your research staff to access the platform too. Your team should be able to access the platform on-demand and from any location just as quickly as your participants can.

Wrap Up

There is a reason why online research communities are so popular with marketing and market research teams. They provide a way for organizations to access high-quality qualitative data from multiple people in their target audience. 

As you follow the best practices listed above and choose the right online community and survey software, you’ll glean insights that will help you grow your business.

For more information about creating a stellar online panel, visit Fuel Cycle today.

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