Interest in online communities is growing now more than ever as companies look to transition research processes online to stay connected and do more with less.

If you’re currently in the market for an online insights community, you may have noticed that there is no shortage of options. As an online insights community provider, we know a thing or two that might help you to identify criteria to help you determine which offering might be the best fit for you.

First, what is an online insights community? A quick Google search will give you the following definition:

“An insight community is a way of conducting research with a group of people over a period time. The group can be very large (thousands of people), very small (less than a dozen) or anywhere in between. Insight communities can last a few days or continue indefinitely.”

But what does this mean?

Really, it means setting up and maintaining a community of your customers for the express purpose of gathering strategic insights. There are, as previously mentioned, a multitude of suppliers for these types of communities, but ultimately, this is their core offering.

Having a community of customers at your disposal means cutting time and costs when you need insights. Your base of respondents for a study is ready and primed for research and does not need to be recruited for your specific initiative. So, if your research is carefully planned and a methodology is already chosen, your research can be fielded almost immediately.

Beyond this, suppliers of online insights communities may offer a variety of services or add-ons to satisfy your needs. These might include, but are not limited to:

  • Consultative research design and planning
  • Community management and health diagnostics
  • Proprietary online research platforms
  • Online portals for results analysis
  • Proprietary research methodologies

These services and offerings are designed to help meet the needs of a variety of different companies and serve as points of differentiation between providers. However, to delineate which online insights community provider best suits your organization, understanding these services is not enough.

In our experience, the major considerations for any company interested in starting up an online insight’s community are:

  • Scalability
  • Flexibility
  • Differing service levels
  • Expertise
  • Technical support
  • Proven value

Scalability 

Online insights communities can be designed to serve any number of different objectives from large, brand tracking studies to strategic conceptual initiatives. Your community should be able to scale to handle organizational changes and needs. Many online insights communities start small but grow as companies recognize their worth and their ability to provide real-time results.

Flexibility

Once again, as organizational priorities shift, your online insights community should be able to shift along with it. As is, most companies have base expectations in terms of the type of research methodologies that they will require appropriate insights. However, your online insights community needs to be able to provide flexibility to offer additional support for whatever your initiative calls for, whether that’s video responses from customers, live ideation sessions, or a wide range of additional activity types. Basically, you should be able to integrate multiple methodologies within your online insights communities, and not be hamstrung by its limitations.

Differing Service Levels

As previously mentioned, online insights community providers may offer a variety of different services to accentuate their offerings. However, organizational requirements for communities are not universal. Some companies do not have the bandwidth to run an online insights community themselves and require a consultative partnership, while others need a streamlined, straightforward approach that can be managed by an internal team. An online insights community provider should be able to accommodate the ebb and flow of differing organizational priorities and budgetary constraints to provide an ever-present and fruitful research tool.

Expertise

Any online insights community must be able to prove its expertise remain a consideration for any serious insights manager. Many do this by highlighting the years they have in the industry, mentioning the companies they’ve worked with, and presenting case studies of success stories. Worth considering, however, is their actual industry expertise. Have they worked in your specific field of research? This important if you expect their approach to include any form of consultation. Your online insights community provider needs to act as an extension of your own research department. As a result, it is incredibly important to choose a provider who can integrate seamlessly and add their own expertise to your team to provide real value and guidance.

Technical Support 

At a minimum, your online insights community provider needs to keep you up and running. That means providing you with a dedicated contact for technical support and resources for troubleshooting. One of the advantages of online insights communities is that they’re always on. They should always be available to run research, so if there’s a technical bug or snag, your provider has to be adept and experienced to service you if something goes wrong.

Proven Value 

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, online insights communities need to prove their value. Insights managers need organizational buy in to secure a community’s position as a reliable research tool. An online insights community provider must explain how they have proven their value to other, similar organizations via objective, third-party studies, and/or internal company metrics.

Although many will claim that they are a match for every company, by keeping these considerations in mind as you evaluate the possibilities, you will be able to choose an online insights community provider that truly fits your needs. Ultimately, you want to ensure the continued success of your organization by providing it with the best possible insights. An online insights community is a fantastic way to do exactly that, so make sure that you choose the right partner!

Would you like to learn more about KLC’s Online Community Platform and service levels? Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch soon!