A market research online community (MROC) consists of people who agree to engage with one or more products or services for a certain length of time. Often MROCs are branded, meaning that the end client is revealed to members. Still, there are many times where a blind community that asks questions about the client’s vertical in general can be preferred.

Regardless of whether you’re running a blind or branded community, careful consideration needs to be made to successfully populate it. Too often, sample considerations are not given the appropriate priority (e.g. we’ll simply use a mix of our database and third party sample). We need to think of populating an ongoing community and not merely reaching our sample quotas.

Buyer Personas and Key Players

Part of the consideration in identifying an ideal community member is understanding your unique buyer persona.

Study samplings of the customers you have now, and try to figure out who seems to be the most interested in your company and industry. You can attempt to reach people according to gender, ethnicity, profession, income, age, interests, hobbies or some combination thereof.

Be sure that the members you invite need your product and can afford it. Also, these brackets should be large enough that they can sustain your business yet narrow enough that you can create special marketing messages for them.

Community Population Decisions

Before you begin recruiting members, decide how long your community will last. The duration could be a few months (what we call a “Pulse Community”), or it could be several years. The length of time will depend on whether you have an ongoing need for a community. While a community may begin as a cost effective means to tackle tactical insights, it will endure if it can also begin to provide strategic insights.

How many people will be in your market research online community? It might be fewer than 100 or more than 10,000, depending on the scope of your inquiries and how many viewpoints you want to consider.

To keep as many people participating for as long as possible, keep engaging with your members. Remember this is first and foremost a community. And while extrinsic incentives are always important, social incentives (e.g. recognition badges, competitive gamification, etc.) are also extremely important. Find the right balance for your community.

The Benefits of a Successful Recruit

In the end, it’s crucial to empower community members to share their judgments openly. This can be done through members forums where they’re able to converse with fellow members directly.

Think through your community member value proposition. Make sure it abides by a quid pro quo relationship, where the member feels he is receiving as much back as he/she is giving.

Remember, we’re not competing against other market research activities for their time. We are competing against Facebook, Pinterest, etc. and we need to provide a community experience that meets expectations. This is especially true of millennials.

An MROC is only as insightful as the combined wisdom of its members. Carefully consider your selection process and then make sure you live up to member’s expectations. That creates a win/win scenario!

Foster