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Online insight communities explained

About two decades ago, ‘online market research communities’ were created as an efficient way to access consumer input and feedback. Today, 71% of researchers are using them, making online communities a popular mainstream research tool. Yet, there exists a lot of confusion around this methodology due to a lack of a common jargon (should we talk about research communities, online discussion boards, bulletin boards, or insight ecosystems?) and the absence of shared best practices. In this blogpost series, we aim to bring clarity, through a definition of what an ‘online insight community’ is, and by providing an overview of different types, each with its key characteristics.

What is an online insight community

An online insight community is an online platform connecting from 50 to up to 30,000 people, to participate in a brand’s research activities. It is supervised by a dedicated moderator and can be short-term, around a specific project with a predefined end date, or ongoing. While online insight communities originally had one key focus, either qualitative exploration or quantitative validation, lately some platforms start to fuel both qualitative and quantitative research. As such, online communities evolved into a hybrid methodology that can provide a 360° view on consumer needs, frictions and aspirations. They support brands in becoming more consumer-centric by closing gaps between the consumers’ needs and frictions, and the solutions a brand offers to the market (more on this in our bookzine ‘From consumer intelligence to consumer centricity’).

Four community types

Based on our expertise in consumer-brand collaborations, we identified four prevalent research needs. First, there are situations where users are looking for a quick and agile solution to gather consumer feedback. A second need is to get a more profound, in-depth understanding of a specific consumer cohort or topic. A third one is the need to fuel research into a specific marketing domain project such as Customer Experience (CX), innovation, or branding & communication. And finally, a fourth need revolves around having an all-round, one-stop capability that allows for agile capturing of consumer feedback as well as going in-depth to get a more profound understanding. It’s the need for an efficient and versatile solution to gather the right consumer insights at the right time.

Based on these needs, we formulated four types of insight communities: (1) Flash communities, (2), Deepdive communities, (3) Program communities, and (4) Research hubs. Yet, an organization’s research needs are not fixed, and as they change, one might benefit from moving from one community type to another.

All four types use the Square, our proprietary consumer insight platform for running insight communities. It’s a closed space that supports hybrid research with a group of people that are interested in the community’s topic(s) as well as interesting for brands to listen to. Depending on the research scope, our Square platform can support samples from 50 to up to 30,000 research participants, and its scope can range from a single- to a multi-country approach.

Four insight community types

The Flash community

“I need a quick and agile solution to gather customer feedback”

A first type we identified is the Flash community which caters for fast decision making, by focusing on quick and agile testing (e.g., exploratory qualitative research, sorting and ranking…). This community has an ad hoc nature and tackles a very specific business problem with a limited number of research activities and participants. Think for example pack testing to assess the potential of a new packaging, where consumer discussions and reviews help optimize the design. Or testing new ideas for potential innovations and gathering feedback on TV commercials or brand touchpoint.

By capturing consumers’ first impressions – for example via short quantitative activities such as sorting and ranking exercises – this type of community provides brands with a sense check on their propositions. Next to this exploratory sensing, qualitative feedback from consumers gives deeper insights into the drivers of their initial impressions. As such, a Flash community helps brands gain a comprehensive understanding of how their propositions can be fine-tuned and further optimized.

Curious what the next community types can mean for your brand? Stay tuned for the Deepdive community, the Program community, and the Research hub in the coming weeks!

We’d love to showcase what Insight Communities can do for your brand. So get in touch to request your showcase!

Better Together Vol 4 - Closing the relevance gap

Better Together Vol. 4: Closing the relevance gap

Research communities, online discussions boards, bulletin boards, insight ecosystems… what’s in a name. In this bookzine, we bring clarity by defining four different community types, each linked to a concrete research need, illustrated with best practices. 

Request your download

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