Four keys to unlock participant engagement: identify, engage, innovate & repeat

End of 2016, 24 of InSites Consulting’s best and brightest qualitative research consultants from Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom came together in one room to examine the past so as to better prepare for the future in engaging participants in online communities. It’s no secret that keeping participants interested and engaged in any community is no walk in the park. These are not avatars that react when you post a topic, they are people with their own lives, timetables and attention spans.
While they may be initially heavily invested in the community and may have a great time, this is not the end of the story; effort, creativity and interest is required to keep them coming back for each topic and give them the platform to share their own ideas.
For structural Consumer Consulting Boards (as we’d like to call our online research communities) which can last more than a year, things become more complicated and, a lot like a relationship, you have got to keep it interesting to get the best out of the both of you. You can’t take any little thing for granted as it might put one person off. Take too much for granted and get lazy and you might see a lot of people not coming back and then you have a problem.
With all 24 brains experienced in the world of participant engagement and given an all-day workshop to explore the topic, there was ample opportunity not only to tackle the potential problem of participant engagement but also to co-create with each other and come up with new solutions for the next generation of Consumer Consulting Boards.

Suffice to say, documenting all the ideas and solutions would take a report far too long to want to read (it’s about engagement, remember?), so to give you a brief taster of what went on and what came out, here are four key takeaways from this workshop:

#1 Bringing together brings change

Regardless of the actual ideas and dialogues created, none of this would have been possible without the gathering of all qualitative consultants in an open platform to discuss. Most things can be done online, but sometimes it’s necessary to bring everyone together to open up the vaults of conscious and unconscious knowledge.

#2 You need to understand what keeps consumers coming back

Efforts have been made by all involved to truly understand the experience from the participants’ point of view and suffice to say, for online research communities, there is a plentitude of reasons why participants would keep on coming back and, in equal measures, a plentitude of reasons why they wouldn’t come back. By understanding these key drivers, you can optimize not only your ability to meet expectations but also how to better prepare for longer-term communities where you must constantly meet expectations to maintain a healthy and active community.

#3 Know no limits & unleash your creativity

It may not be Mars, but each community is unknown territory as every group of individuals is different. So when it comes to getting participants engaged, there may well be a rule-book but there is also the ability to tear it up. Moving forward isn’t about observing the status quo, it’s about pointing in the distance and saying there. Some of the clearest and best examples given by the 24 qualitative research consultants on how to keep participants engaged came from their own initiative and fantasy as well as from using static tools in a new and exciting way to create new forms of engagement.

#4 Take nothing for granted – We’re not done yet

The last part of the workshop was devoted to identifying problems we see today and thinking of solutions for future platforms. All these ideas are put forward for consideration and could well be included to ensure participant engagement all through the future. But if this workshop taught us anything, it’s that you can’t take anything for granted, the world will evolve and new challenges will come our way. Our job is to stay agile and aware of new solutions for old and new problems; it’s only through constant appraisal that we can know we are heading in the right direction.

Participant engagement workshop

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