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  • Writer's pictureChris Aswad

Online Communities: An Insights Tool to Meet The Moment

An agile, versatile and cost-effective addition to your insights toolkit? Yes, please.

I’ve been getting lots of inquiries and questions from clients – new and old – about online communities. In the age of COVID-19, everyone in the insights business wants to take the pulse of their customers, prospects, the general public. But, taking a snapshot via a survey, poll or video focus group is just that – a look at a point in time. Things are changing quickly…and that’s where communities come in. It’s easy to see why their popularity seems to be on the rise and why they may just be the insights tool to meet the moment.

Here are the top 5 benefits of adding an online community to your toolkit:

1. Rapid results. Once it’s set-up, your community can function as a lightning fast insights generator. Field a burning question from your team this afternoon, have answers by tomorrow. And not just what % say this or that…but why they feel that way and what they think you can do about it.

2. An ongoing, two-way conversation. Apart from answering our most important business questions, the best research often gives us a whole new line of inquiry to explore, nuance to tease apart, inspiration for new questions to ask. With a community, you can keep the conversation flowing and iterate to your heart’s content. And…by following participants over time, you’ll develop a unique perspective on how their attitudes, behaviors and relationship to your brand evolves – something that’s impossible to get from most other research.

3. The perfect place to experiment. Test and learn. Then, learn some more. Be transparent with both participants and stakeholders and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how open people are to going along for the ride as you try out a new way of capturing insights. We’ve introduced previously risk-averse client teams to all sorts of creative projects this way – video diaries, mind maps, mobile ethnography, live chats and so much more.

4. Your in-house multimedia production hub. Your community will become a treasure trove of fantastic photo and video content. Multimedia rich activities illuminate participants’ behavioral patterns and provide a point of comparison vs. their written responses. Plus, they boost engagement - not only for participants, but for your stakeholders too. Your CMO may not remember the PowerPoint with the latest tracking numbers, but she’ll remember the video clips of customers speaking direct to camera about your latest ad campaign.

5. A smarter way to stretch your research budget. You can often conduct the same (or very similar) research for up to 60% less than if you did the same projects as custom ad hoc studies on their own. A community won’t be your go-to for every insights need, but you’ll be surprised how much it will function like the Swiss army knife of your research toolkit once it’s up and running. From concept testing and early stage ideation to advertising gut checks and brand positioning work, a well-run community can tackle it all… for way less money.

BONUS: If you’ve noticed a “sea of sameness” when it comes to brands’ TV ads and messaging around COVID-19, you’re not alone. Acknowledging the crisis is a first step, sure. But if you want your message to stand out in the months ahead, developing a unique voice will be critical. There’s no better way to do this than tap into consumer truths in real-time and then test and tweak your creative ideas on the fly. An online community is the perfect platform to do just that.

Email me ( to discuss how a community could benefit your team or how we can help you navigate your insights roadmap in the COVID-19 environment. We're a full service insights agency, so we offer a lot more too. Check some case studies and our latest research on the impact of COVID-19 while you're here.

Stay safe and healthy,


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