How to Effectively Use Online Communities for Market Research

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market research online communities

What’s the best way to effectively use market research online communities for research? Engage them. While this answer may seem simple, there’s a lot more that goes into it.

One could consider guerilla tactics and wield a strong arm, forcing participation or access. However, guerilla tactics don’t even work that well in warfare, so why would they work in consumerism?

Another approach is flooding consumers with so many opportunities for interaction that they will finally give in and go the survey or they’ll run for the hills, blocking your spam. But either way, members of your market research online community will not be happy. Today, the average American is exposed to an estimated 4,000 – 10,000 ads per day! So, how do you really cut through the rest of the online noise and effectively use online communities for market research? Let’s take a look.

Market Research Online Communities are valuable

This is something that many brands fail to realize or figure out too late. Your market research online communities (MROCs) are valuable and should be treated as such. Market research is a two-way street; you need to respect their time and ideas and offer a positive experience in order to get consumers to engage with your brand. There is also a finite limit on how many times you can reference the same audience. What’s the right frequency? That answer is hotly debated. In our experience, engaging members on a weekly basis keeps our market research online communities thriving. Members know when to expect a communication from us. With the correct approach of framing research “activities”, market research online community members look forward to giving feedback.

Customers understand that their opinions are critical to your survival. However, effectively using market research online communities for market research also requires that you acknowledge the value that your customers bring to the effort. As a company, you need to show your appreciation regarding how customer efforts enabled you to make informed and hence, better decisions. Moreover, you must close the loop. Tell your customers what you learned and what you’re going to do differently now that you’ve heard what they’ve had to say. Not only do customers want to be incentivized and respected, it is important for them to know they are making a difference. Closing the loop of how research is being utilized keeps the door open for the next time that you want to engage your MROCs for market research.

Tips to make MROCs more engaging

We all dream of being in that enviable position where customers come to you, unsolicited, and voluntarily offer up their time and open their wallets to you. Yet, we all know that that’s not how it works. Additional steps and effort are required to make our MROCs engaging enough to get the participant numbers we need to yield meaningful insights. Here are 4 tips on how to do so:


This is a hot field right now. The market is already around $6B and growing a whopping 30%. Everyone seems to be gamifying everything, from mortgage applications to corporate learning and development. One supportive argument is that the desirable and highly targeted Millennial audience grew up on video games and is therefore more responsive to an approach that enables them to play for a win. What that win is, be it pride and bragging rights or a tangible prize, doesn’t matter. A win is a win. A second reason behind this push to gamify everything hails from the observation that this age group desires immediate gratification. An intriguing startup, 1Huddle, has developed gamification software that is based on these two drivers where people learn by playing games, on their own timelines, just a minute or two at a time. The short timeframe is crucial.


If you’ve created a market research online community for market research but have neglected to implement things like good moderation, clear boundaries and rules, then your market research online community is unlikely to engage. In the absence of a safe environment where opinions are respected, people will be hesitant to voice their opinions. They will be more inclined to remain silent observers as opposed to the active participants you need. Additional tips on how to create safe, respectful and productive market research online communities for market research can be found here.

Active Listening

This one is tough for a lot of people on a personal level and is even tougher for companies to do. The simple adage that applies here is, “put your money where your mouth is,” which is what your customers want to see. If they’ve invested their time and effort to tell you something about your brand, they want to be heard. They want to see you respond to what you’ve heard by making the necessary changes. This is again where the importance of “closing the loop” comes in. A few big brands have responded to market research demands and made changes, such as McDonalds UK, who has switched to paper straws. Today, customers want what they want when they want it and they’re not afraid to take their business elsewhere if they don’t get it. In fact, 76% of customers expect companies to understand what they need, so make sure that your market research online community for market research outlines the process in place to use the information collected. Then, report out the changes that were made because of it.


This is a tried and true approach that’s been around since peddlers pitched their wares from tree stumps in an open market. “If you do this for me, I’ll do this for you.” We all know that incentives work. As companies who are seeking to effectively use market research online communities for market research, what we may not be aware of is how much it’s going to cost us. In 2017, the most current year for which such data is available, USA-based businesses spent a staggering $24B on gift cards incentivizing behaviors where a large portion of that was allocated for market research. That said, rewards and incentives don’t need to be cash. You can garner deep customer loyalty, active participation, and brand champions by enticing your market research online community into market research by offering them a chance to get access to something first. Even if you sell it to them, you don’t necessarily have to give it away for free.

Bottom line, your customers in your MROC want to be engaged. They want to influence your company’s decisions, but they also want to have a little fun. Unless you are an analyst or scientist, research is generally boring for the average consumer. It is the job of market research companies to establish MROC as places where consumers feel that they can be heard, have their opinions respected, and know that they’re important to you and your business. To effectively engage online communities for market research, be sure to use these tips and tricks.

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