Kick-start your community – Create first impressions

Research communities have become a very successful researching method we offer at InSites Consulting, whereby our clients are given the opportunity to directly co-create with their customers in virtual space.  As with any new method, constant optimization is vital to improve the community experience for all parties involved. In cooperation with University Maastricht, we have already unearthed several motivating drivers and facilitating factors crucial to create and sustain successful community experiences. In this study we find that kick-off sessions are extremely useful to get communities off the ground by driving members’ active and passive participation and avoid un-subscription.

Two types of member participation

Online research communities, designed for the sharing and learning of insights, essentially depend on two types of member participation:

  1. Active participation: Post contributions (supplying knowledge to community co-creation) and
  2. Passive participation: Reading posts (seeking knowledge on existing community posts to co-creation).

Lack of either one of these activities renders the co-creation or innovation in research communities incomplete and ineffective (Davenport and Prusak, 1998). Where members who post ideas without reading will not be able to build on and advance existing knowledge and members who just read but do not post do not build community insights but just consume them. For the success of research communities, it is therefore imperative to understand how to promote both types of participation.

Creating first impressions using kick-offs

Recently, we have started to conduct kick-off sessions to get our research communities off the ground. In these kick-off sessions, members are introduced to each other and the community to which they are invited. The results in Figure 1&2 you see below were obtained across 3811 members who participated across 33 equally structured research communities for 3 months respectively.  We classified all members into one of 2 groups depending on whether they participated in a kick-off session or not. Our final sample includes 774 members who did not participate in a kick-off session and 3037 members who did participate in a kick-off session. We show the mean differences between these groups’ active and passive community participation.


  • Kick-off sessions get members to participate more actively (e.g. submit more posts).
  • They increase members’ passive participation (e.g. pages viewed).
  • Further, kick-off sessions boosted participants average amount of community visits within the given community lifespan, where before participants used to visit every 3rd day, members who participated in the kick-off session visited the community every 2nd day.
  • Finally, kick-off session reduce members’ drop-out rate in our communities from 8% to 5%.

Concluding thoughts

When it comes to communities, small pre-sessions where members are introduced prepared for the actual community events are vital to their subsequent participation and community success. Kick-off sessions boost both active and passive participation, increases community visits and reduces drop out.


  • Davenport, T. H. and L. Prusak (1998) Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Spaulding, T. J. (2009) How Can Virtual Communities Create Value For Business. Electronic Commerce Research & Applications, 9,1,38-49.


This article was written in cooperation with Wim De Wever, Senior Project & Method Manager Research Communities at InSites Consulting, and Tom De Ruyck, Head of Research Communities at InSites consulting.

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