Thinking about an online insights community? Want to expand your qualitative insights toolkit this year? Here are the top 10 essential tips you need to know now.
1. Plan ahead for internal resources. Even with a great partner, online communities take dedicated client involvement! Bake this into your project plan from day 1. Don't let this scare you from getting started though - there are ways to "dip your toe into the water" when it comes to communities and other innovative qual approaches. You can start small and scale up when you're ready. But it's important to have a checklist in place from the start to make sure you avoid common pitfalls down the road. We're here to help with that...feel free to shoot me a quick message to discuss.
2. Identify what you really want and need. Many brand teams talk about starting a community. But often, the expectation is really a panel of customers ready to take regular surveys. This is fine if it aligns with your objectives, but it's very different than creating a truly immersive and engaged Community of ‘advisors’ ready to participate and contribute in a much more meaningful and interactive way.
3. Persuade internal decision makers with a clear business case. It's a demonstrated fact that well-run, highly engaged communities can lead to 60%+ savings vs. running the same research as discrete ad hoc projects. This makes for a killer slide when getting buy-in from your internal team.
4. Engage your members from the start. Have a 90-day research activity plan when you launch - the worst mistake you can make is inviting people to join, getting them excited and then…crickets for a month. On that note, it should be your standard operating procedure to personally welcome every new member - we do so at least weekly.
5. The right incentive program matters. Experiment with points or monthly prize drawings but don't try to do your penny pinching here…you'll regret it later. It's also a great idea to implement a tiered rank system after your community has been running for a while. We have lots of learning about the best way to do this...and we utilize it to fantastic effect for our community clients.
6. Variety. Variety. Variety. Mixing up your activities is an essential part of a great community. If you have a slow period, spice it up with fun activities and discussions that keep your members engaged, even if the topic is not directly related to a specific business question. It will keep them interested, maintain momentum and you might be surprised by what you learn when you venture into new areas!
7. Get personal: speak with warmth and curiosity. When moderating, leave the research jargon and marketing lingo behind. Probe and interrogate, but do so in way that connects to participants’ everyday way of talking about a topic. Taking time to build connections now will return a big dividend in the form of richer insights down the road.
8. Multimedia is your friend - especially video! Make it a part of as many activities as you can even if you don't plan to review or use every photo that comes back. Photo and video opens a window into participants’ behavioral patterns and gives you a point of comparison vs. their written responses. Plus, it boosts engagement - not only for participants, but for your stakeholders too! How many times have you heard a CMO say three months later: "Gee, that slide with the stacked bar charts and quotes really stuck with me"? Answer: WAY fewer than the number of times a CMO will remember the video clip of Steve from Chicago with the German Shepherd - and all the cool insights he had about your brand.
9. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Communities are the perfect forum for using a ‘test and learn’ approach to new techniques and methodologies. 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.
10. Nothing replaces executing on the basics of great communication. Talk to your members clearly, transparently and often! Close the feedback loop - money talks but participants also want to know how they are making a difference. Share results and specific ways their feedback has impacted your business. We recommend a monthly announcement showcasing how member contributions are being used across the business – maybe they helped name a new product or service. Maybe a concept they helped test during beta is now ready for launch. Whatever it is, share the news and use it as an opportunity to thank members for making your business better.
Send us a quick message to discuss ideas and approaches to insight communities that could become an invaluable tool for your business.
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