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How to Build an Active and Engaged Online Insights Community

Emily James

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Building an insights community is one of the bigger jobs assigned to an insight team. In the beginning it can seem a monumental task, but insight communities do have the capacity to give back value equal to or above the effort originally put in at the start, if the community is properly engaged.

There are some key members in any research panel or community, as FlexMR Head of Insight, Charlotte Duff, mentions in one of her blogs, the ones we encounter on a regular basis are: the passive joiners, the one-time visitors, the prize chasers, the research fans, and the super fans. Getting a mixture of these members is natural, and every community will have some if not all of these at any one time – but what happens when a research community has more of those members who aren’t quite as active in your research? How can researchers boost their interest and entice them to join in?

Active Moderation

Researchers who engage with the respondents will incite engagement back. Quite a simple statement, true, but not as easy to put into practice as it is to say it. Moderation is something researchers are well-versed in, even if it’s simply the moderation of tasks such as focus groups, diary studies, and qualitative questionnaires. This experience of moderation can be used to greater impact in insight communities, as moderation is a great way of keeping an eye on the community, interacting with them and making sure they’re interacting back.

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Building an effective insights community can seem like a monumental task, but there are a few ways to make sure it generates value equal to or more than the effort insight teams put in.

Moderation is a key tactic for keeping the research community engaged in the research tasks and projects an insight team is currently running. For those participants who contribute the bare minimum or only contribute now and then to research tasks, research moderators can help spur them to act through direct communication such as task reminders and incentive emails, or by posting on the research task itself to ask more questions, encouraging them to share deeper thoughts or experiences.

However, as a moderator, it’s also a researchers responsibility to make sure that all voices are heard. In a larger online insights community, it can be easy for some of the engaged members to become over-engaged and take over the research themselves. This ends up putting other members off and make the majority of member disengage from the research entirely. Head of Insight, Charlotte Duff, suggests that to combat this challenge, is to make those over-engaged members community ambassadors. Make them examples of what other members can achieve if they too engage to this higher level, or even delegate some responsibility of engaging other members to these ambassadors so the community perpetuates the discussion with only minimal researcher intervention.

Integrate Innovation

Innovation is a term that has been banded about for a number of years now, usually referring to future inventions that will revolutionise the way we do things now. However, there are innovations we are currently taking advantage of that can help better engage research participants and generate great data.

Gamification is one such innovation that was integrated into market research communities a few years ago that has helped engage members through incentives and competition. While technology such as virtual and augmented reality can be used to promote the more ‘gamified’ research tasks, gamification can be as little as introducing a leader board where respondents collect points and the respondent or group of respondents with the most points win (prizes, incentives, more draw entries, etc.)

Another innovation to consider is incorporating behavioural science techniques into the mix. While the platform researchers host their insights community on might be a little limited, the InsightHub has room for video streaming and uploading so that footage captured in real-time can be uploaded directly to the platform for research analysis. The study of direct actions rather than simply asking people what they think they might do in a situation provides a level of authenticity that stakeholders crave and researchers revel in, as well as a different task for respondents to participate in.

A good mix of old and new methods will promote reliability as well as excitement when respondents think about market research, and your insight community in particular. This behavioural-type data alongside the more traditional surveys or focus groups for example, will heighten the interest in research for all parties involved.

Encourage Collaboration

Collaboration with research respondents is vital for the generation of actionable insights, and there are some firms who have cottoned on to this fact faster than others.

The Coventry Building Society created an insights community panel on the InsightHub platform and have created a reverse focus group concept, where the respondents dictate the topic of conversation. This authority and responsibility promotes an equal relationship between researcher and respondent, and more likelihood for respondents to feel more comfortable sharing their unique data (thus more engaged and active as a result).

Another simpler tactic to encourage more collaboration is to feed back the changes their insights made within the stakeholders organisation to the community, so they know their insight is valued and acted on to improve their own customer journey and experience. Even if it’s not something customers will actually see or experience, it’s worth feeding back the changes made to internal process or strategies so they know that they are making a difference when they dedicate their time to the research cause.

Evolution is Key

Insight communities come in all different shapes and sizes, with each community created specifically for their unique purpose – whether they’re tailored to provide the right answers to current stakeholder questions or built for longevity to provide continual insight generation.

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Insight communities come in all different shapes and sizes, each built for specific purposes - but that doesn't mean they can't evolve to become more efficient and impactful.

The situation that incites the need for an insight community dictates how the community is designed and set up. Insight communities can be long-term, short-term or ad-hoc. Long-term communities are carefully sculpted platforms that host a large number of research participants to continually generate insights. Short-term communities have a select, traditionally smaller group of participants that are take part in tasks to generate insights that will direct a specific set of strategic decisions. Ad-hoc communities are a mixture of the two – a longer-term platform with a larger group of research participants that are only engaged when the specific decisions or strategies need informing.

While these communities are set up for specific purposes, that doesn’t mean that that is the only way to run that same community. With the original need for insights and community design so carefully constructed around that need, it’s natural for researchers to fight to keep the community the same as long as it’s still producing insights. However, to make sure the community is running as efficiently as possible and producing actionable, relevant insights, short-term communities can turn into long-term or ad-hoc ones. Longer-term communities are the best at evolving naturally, as the churn rate keeps the community full of engaged members and the topics of conversation will help strategically inform decisions surrounding the business and the customer journey and experience.

FlexMR InsightHub

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