Insight communities are a pivotal part of market research. These communities are hubs of continuous insight generation, filled with engaged customers or consumers who are constantly communicating with each other both inside and outside of research tasks. At least, that’s the type of successful research community that insight teams aim to create.
Sometimes, these communities don’t pan out exactly the way they need to. They can fall short of the expectations placed on them, failing to produce the right insights at the right time (and therefore failing to inform the right stakeholder decisions). So, what can insight teams do to make sure that these communities are successful?
One pivotal aspect that typically determines the success of a community is its members: Have researchers recruited the right members into their community to start with? Are they actively taking part in the research and interacting with everyone else? Are they the relevant audience for the research topic? These are all key questions to ask when looking to recruit for a successful research community.
Finding the right people
Finding the right members for an insights community is the first step, but it can also be tougher than expected, especially if the research requires a study of niche, harder to reach subcultures. There are a couple of important factors that will determine which respondents need to complete the research tasks – the type of research being conducted, and the topic insight teams are researching.
Understanding what the research experience will entail is the key to recruiting the right community of respondents. For some insight communities, a representative sample of frequent customers will be the right choice of sample so stakeholders can truly understand the needs and opinions of their customer base; but for others, maybe a sample of the general consumer population is the better choice because they might hold the key to future opportunities for the brand.
For a successful community, it’s imperative insight teams recruit the right sample for the insights needed, whether that’s a community full of customers, consumers, advocates, or a mixture of them all.
Head of Insight, Charlotte Duff, explains that “a community is an ideal opportunity to capture feedback from all customer types, especially those who may not necessarily be as visual to stakeholders. Within the community, there are opportunities to target specific members with specific questions, but having the community open to all customers gives opportunities to discover the unknown unknowns”.
Recruiting the right people
Once insight teams have identified the best type of respondents to recruit into a community, recruiting them is another challenge to tackle.
Important recruitment considerations at this point would be:
- How many potential respondents can be recruited?
- How many respondents can we access in the timeframe required?
- How many respondents are likely to have the time and inclination to complete the research and share their opinions on the research topic?
The last two considerations are quite hard to find out at this stage, but factoring those into the recruitment process (the likelihood that people might not have time, means, or inclination to take part) will help ensure a good sample size.
Once we know who the right sample are then the best way to alert them to the research opportunity is to find the communication channels they use frequently and exploit those channels as much as possible. For those respondents who are tech-savvy, they’ll use their smartphone for a lot of their daily tasks, they’ll likely have access to a laptop or desktop and regularly use social media channels; out of these social media channels, they will favour one or two over the rest, so insight teams can use those channels to get in touch those respondents.
Of course, for online communities, insight teams need to be aware that they’re only getting valuable insights from those who have internet access and understand how to use the internet enough to provide the answers.
For the less technologically-inclined respondents, any communications will need to be in person, through the telephone, or in written format, as the research will need to be too. While we might be tempted to think of this group as older and stuck in their ways, that’s not always true – there are plenty of younger people who either refuse to engage with technology in their lifestyle or don’t have the means to access it, and their voices are just as important as those who do use technology on a daily basis.
Gaining a representative sample means creating a sample from those with the best accessibility to those that are more hard to reach. Some of the best ways to recruit participants are through channels like customer support, live intercepts from website/customer journey traffic, social media adverts, postal surveys, and so forth. Using different sampling techniques helps researchers identify the right people to target from customer support and databases, and setting targeting parameters for social media and live intercepts.
The power of incentives
Incentives have always been a powerful driver of research engagement but only up to a point. There will always be a line where financial incentives aren’t enough, but in the insights industry we have devised a number of different incentives to attract the right respondents.
FlexMR’s Charlotte Duff explains that, while they’re a well-known concept, “prize draws and quality prizes (for example, for the most insightful comments in a forum, best directional comment on a smartboard, etc.) are [still] a great way to incentivise engagement. Regular prize draws with points earned for each activity completed are a dependable way to incentivise participation, but having these draws complemented by ad-hoc prizes for survey completion are great for keeping respondents on their toes, too. However, using ad-hoc incentives needs to be carefully controlled to stop people becoming too accustomed to them”.
This gamification of research is a great hook for respondents, and their competitive side will help drive engagement as long as the fun continues.
Samantha Nicholson, Senior Research Associate at FlexMR, explores her own experiences with engaging the right respondents in market research taking a less financially incentivised approach, and rewards and encourages them through other means. Samantha explains that she “tries to encourage the participants recruited to adopt positive behaviours; for example, to get them to take part frequently I make sure there are regular activity posts to engage with, and that the research activities created are interesting and tailored to the respondents”.
Samantha also tries to encourage respondents in group discussions “through moderator communications, reminding them of incentives and the community status or recognition they’d achieve for taking part”. This holds them accountable to the other participants and usually generates more discussion within the research tasks.
Another less tangible incentive that drives consumers towards research is the chance to make a difference, to help respondents understand the power they hold, and the change they enact when taking part in market research. Feeding back the changes made within the stakeholder organisation is an important driver of engagement in research, as it makes the respondents feel valued and they are thus more willing to share their thoughts and needs in the future. For the best outcome, these techniques are best used in conjunction with financial incentives for both physical rewards and to build a solid connection between all parties involved.