The 2017 Community Values and Metrics Report stated that 54% of respondents listed online communities as a strategic initiative for their organization. Furthermore, two-thirds of companies have some type of online community, and 74% of larger enterprises use online communities as a business tool.

With these stats in mind, it’s clear that an online community can be a strategic and powerful business tool, offering more insights into how your customers behave, what they prefer, and what they want from your business.

While online communities are a great market research tool for most businesses, a community doesn’t have to entirely replace all solutions or methods. It also doesn’t mean that you should jump head first into leveraging an online community without knowing whether or not it’s the right solution for your organization.

Here are some of the top ways to assess whether or not your company is ready for a community, and how a community can help you with your market research efforts.

1. You already have a large or defined audience

Communities are made up of carefully selected target and loyal customers, divided into different segments. With the help of feedback from these long-term and varying customer types, brands can elicit high-quality feedback.

Stats show that over one-third of communities have over 15,000 members, and that most of these communities have existed for over three years. Not all communities need to be comprised of thousands of members to bring accurate insights, but they do need to have a representative sample size of the organization’s customer base.

Companies with a large audience of already engaged customers, partners, and employers are a good fit for a community. On the other hand, if you’re a smaller business that is in early growth stages, other solutions may be a better research fit.

2. You have clearly defined your business goals

Strategic planning comes in at the top of the list of large corporations priorities, yet two-thirds to three-quarters of these organizations struggle working towards achieving high-level goals. Not to mention, 80% say they are committed to doing their best to execute a strategy, but they would like more clarity on what the strategy actually is.

When it comes to marketing, goal-setting marketers are 376% more likely to report success, according to CoSchedule.  Additionally, marketers with a documented strategy are 313% more likely to report success and marketers who proactively plan projects are 356% more likely to report success.

Leaders at every organization understand the importance, in terms of success and ROI, of goal setting, defining strategy, and planning proactively. Yet, organizations are falling short.

For an online community to truly work, it’s vital that businesses understand the problems they are trying to solve. When organizations know the problems they are trying to solve, the purpose of the online community will stand out.

Once your team has clearly defined goals and objectives for your online community, you can rest assured you’re ready to talk to software vendors.

3. You understand your metrics

It’s not shocking to learn that over 80% of organizations are using metrics to track the success of their online communities. What is surprising, however, is most organizations are just tracking basic measures of activity, posts or traffic.

Basic metrics will give you insights into the health of your community, but if you want to answer your most pressing business questions from a customer’s point of view, then having a solid strategy for determining community revenue contribution and ROI is the best course of action.

A private branded community requires resources and commitment from a variety of stakeholders, which is why having a strong metrics system is paramount. Choosing the right community solution, therefore, should enable easy analysis and integrate with other high-powered CRM tools to provide the best visibility into the community’s business impact.

Wrap Up

An online community can be one of the best market research tools, but it is important to make sure your organization is ready to get the most out of an online community. If you already have a loyal and large audience, defined business goals, and a strategy for tracking advanced analytics, then an online community may just be the answer you’re looking for to glean more detailed data from your target audience.