Ok, so now I have your attention.  What I want to focus on is… what the ideal size is for an online community? Do I need 300 members or 5,000? Is less more in the case of an online community, or do we find strength in numbers?  The truth is there is no right or wrong answer, and there is no secret formula.  However, there are some things you can keep in mind as you start an online community, to help you determine the best size for you.

  • What is the overall purpose of your community?
    • When setting up your online community, it is important to identify what the core of the community is really about. Is it based on one objective or multiple objectives?  Is it a short term (aka what we call a “Pulse Community”) or ongoing community? Will you mainly be using it for qualitative insights or do you plan to also use it for some quantitative studies?
  • What kind of relationship do you want with your members?
    • Is your community being built to conduct “reactive research” – where you mainly use your members for evaluation and validation – OR are you going to mainly use your community for “proactive research” – where you use your members for iterative research, ideation and co-creation?
  • Which is more important, quality or quantity?
    • When reporting on your community to internal or external stakeholders are they more concerned about the quality of the research they are getting or do they need the numbers to support sales or other metrics?
  • Is the sponsor of the community being identified?
    • Is your community going to be branded or blind? Is the content going to be category specific or brand specific?
  • What is the commitment for the members?
    • How often do you plan on reaching out to members to participate? How many activities do you expect them to participate in at one time? What about the length of each members’ membership to the community?

When deciding to build your online community you can use the below checklist to help determine the ideal size of your online community.  It is most important to really identify the main focus of the community first as that should be the driving force in determining the ideal size for your community.  It is also very important to be able to adjust on the fly.  You may have initially decided to start with a larger sample size, but as you begin your research you realize you do not really need that many – know that is OK! The same holds true the opposite way. You can always start small and as you get going and identify different needs within the community, you can always grow it as necessary.

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