online research communities

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Online research communities (part of Research 2.0) are an emerging and developing area in market research making use of developments in Web 2.0 technologies and online communities. They allow qualitative research to be conducted efficiently and deeply online.

Both public and private online communities offer opportunities for research, but many brands are wary of sharing company information openly. Invitation-only, private online communities centred on a single brand or customer segment may be the solution. These private communities can also engage customer groups or target consumers who might be difficult to reach using traditional off-line methodologies. Consumers enjoy this new, more participative research approach and the interaction with other users re-introduces the social context often missing from other research approaches that conceive of the consumer as an isolated individual.

Brands also benefit from online communities by having them on-hand to answer questions, test hypothoses, and observe. Online technology can adapt to almost any research need, be it showing creative stimulus material, gathering ideas for innovation or simply an instant ‘go/no go’ when you need it. The continuity built through online networks brings new possibilities for supporting ideation processes. With a group of people on board, research can keep pace with internal development processes, providing a consumer feedback loop to check new ideas, such as product development, from inception to launch.

In an online research community members (rather than respondents) talk to each other - they exchange ideas and discuss issues with each other. Unlike a panel this lets you watch how people interact and let them raise the questions you want to ask. You can get richer responses because you get to see how members talk about issues, what language they use. You see what questions they ask each other, which may not be the ones you’d choose to ask them. It’s all about seeing members in their social context. Without this interaction, this sense of community, you essentially have a panel of respondents. People who answer the questions in isolation of each other. You don’t see how they interact with others and can’t understand why they give the responses they do.

[edit] See also

* Community of practice
* Internet forum
* Internet social network
* Market research
* Online deliberation
* Online community manager
* Qualitative research
* Research 2.0
* Social network
* Social media

[edit] Further reading and external links

* Virtual Worlds and Reality, Marketing Week, July 2008
* Research 2.0, ResearchTalk
* Online research communities, FreshNetworks Blog
* Research 2.0 Conference, Research Magazine

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