One question I have been hearing a lot lately when speaking with both current and potential clients is, “What is the average lifespan for an online market research community member?” While we typically like to add fresh blood into a community at a minimum of once a year, this is not a simple answer as there are a lot of factors that go into determining when a respondent should be “retired” from their community.

Participation: We can start with the easiest one. Members have to participate if they want to stay part of the community. We do measure different kinds of participation. While there are a group of members in every community who participate in any activity we throw at them, there are some who are more inclined to participate in the familiar: quick polls and surveys. However, there are some who really enjoy participating in our ongoing moderated forum discussions. We have also noticed that there are members who may be dormant for some time, but when we pose a CrowdWeaving® (co-creation) challenge, they are eager to participate.

Activity Types & Level: We always look to provide a balance of activities to keep members engaged.MROC-Refresh-300x180 We try to mix up the types of activities so members are not always taking surveys or responding to a forum discussion. We try to keep the content fresh and engaging. The key is finding the right balance and providing the right number of activities for members to participate in. Sometimes, however, there is a need for a more heavily active community, which may but not always lead to member burnout. Communities that are more heavily active may require more refreshes than communities that have fewer activities.

To play devil’s advocate on this one though, the opposite can also hold true. If we do not provide enough activity for members to participate in, then they don’t get used to a routine and when we do ask them to participate they may choose not to as it is not worth their time.

Personality type: We all know “that person” who dominates the conversation at an in-person focus group. They tend to sit to the right of the moderator and needs to be the first and last to comment and answer each question. Just like in-person groups, there are sometimes members in communities who are like this. They are usually the members who respond to activities before even being told there are new activities to participate in. They are very vocal—sometimes too vocal—and turn others off to commenting. It is our job to identify these members and try and rein them in. If we do not succeed, sometimes it is best to let them off gently.

While there is no secret formula, when we make the decision to let members go from our online market research communities, we want to make sure it is not taken negatively. It is important to remind them of all the contributions they have made during their membership within the community and how valuable all of their insight has been.   You want the message to come across that they are not being kicked out, but rather it is time to give others a chance.