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Paul Hudson
Paul Hudson CEO of Intersperience
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Elements of a strong research community

Here at Intersperience, we are focused not only on providing our clients with in-depth research and analysis, but also about taking care of those customers who provide us with their insights.

We manage online communities where customers not only have the opportunity to answer surveys, vote on polls, join focus groups and take part in other research activities; but also to interact with one another, trade tips and advice and gain feedback into what their research has provided.

A strong research community is not only an ideal platform on which to launch research projects and conduct pilot testing to gauge consumer reaction, but also an enjoyable space that customers actively want to be engaged in.

We have identified several common elements that a research community must possess a combination of in order to be successful.

1. Is it an established community? Bonds take time to grow and often a research community needs to develop with a bit of TLC in order to flourish and bear useful feedback and insights.

2. Does it have a ‘core’ group of users? Often in online communities it takes a couple of members to take the lead in creating content and sparking debate, other than the moderator. These advocates can be powerful assets to the community and should be encouraged and rewarded for their efforts. Others will recognise these familiar voices of the community and may be more inclined to join in themselves.

3. Is there a high level of research content? Customers have joined the community on the basis of having their say and providing feedback to the company, so make sure it’s there for them to do!

4. Do the consumers have a strong attachment to the brand? Consumers who feel passionate about the company, even if by means of a complaint, will be more likely to get engaged in activities in the hope of making a difference. If the company themselves have a strong online presence this also helps to facilitate people joining and staying in the community.

5. Is there a range of activities for members to do? No one wants to fill in endless lengthy surveys; make research activities fun and varied incorporating visual aids, games etc and you will see interest and engagement increase. Also, bear in mind that people vary in what activities and to what extent they prefer to take part, so make sure your community caters for all.

6. Do customers feel they are being heard? Customers like to know that their opinions are valued and taken on board. For this reason it is important not to overlook providing feedback on research and how it has been used, even if this is by means of having a few set questions to answer at the end of each research project to give back to the community. Customers will then feel like they matter and that being a member is worthwhile.

7. Are there good incentives for contribution? You don’t get something for nothing, if customers are spending their time and effort to give you feedback, then they need to feel as though they are getting something in return. This could be regular prize draws, vouchers for completing certain tasks or even merchandise or tickets to events. Good incentives certainly help response rates, but do not put all your members in the same boat. More engaged members care more about intangible incentives such as feeling valued and listened to, whilst others will need the nudge of a prize opportunity to log in and take part.

8. Want to be friends? Finally, it’s not all about the ‘researcher – customer’ experience but also the relationship between members. Members need to be able to talk to one another, discuss their interests and share their points of view. The research community can be a place that brings those with a common interest together, helping to form real friendships where members want to log in and chat.

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