Building Your Own Insights Community? What To Expect from Platforms
Looking to create your own online insights community? Here’s an update on licensable platforms just for that purpose.
This month I took time out to get demos and trial boards for several licensable community platforms. These platforms allow essentially any research consultant to create their own online insights community. The companies I spoke with can mostly be found as advertisers in Greenbook’s New Qualitative Research Directory.
I was excited by what is happening with these products. They seem very well-suited for moderator-led communities where purposeful research is the primary objective. They also appear helpful for communities that might last 12 months or less, where investments in the platform itself need to be in line with that duration. New offerings are coming in from both social networking community providers and NewQual research suppliers (i.e. previously bulletin board companies) who have integrated community capabilities into their platforms.
Some of the big trends happening are:
- Robust research capabilities – Mostly these capabilities are asynchronous – only one platform I tested had integrated “live chats”. The best ones offer the ability to have one-on-one interaction or group discussion, decided at the question level. They can easily handle all forms of media (sharing and collecting). Plus, they have “cool research tools” like whiteboards and heat maps. They also have good to outstanding coding/tagging capabilities, and excellent transcript export options. From a moderator’s perspective, it’s hard to complain here!
- Integration of mobile qual – This is still being handled in very different ways within each platform (app-based, email, text, audio), but the best ones now have mobile integrated and included in their flat pricing (see below). There was even one platform offering an “adaptable” mobile design so that all questions programmed for online answering are equally well-viewed on participants’ smartphones, giving them the ability to participate in the full community experience via mobile. Audio mobile (where voice messages are recorded and transcribed for analysis) was also available from one supplier.
- More “research” vs. “social” feeling interfaces – Some of the best licensable platforms don’t resemble the social networking community interfaces that have been popular from the major, full-service corporate community providers. The licensable platforms are instead more geared to the purpose of research and usually provide a menu of “tasks” for the participants to complete, versus an experience where participants could explore various discussion or content areas throughout a social-style homepage. The good news is this focuses the participants on the tasks at hand and adds structure, but on the flip side it could negatively impact participant enjoyment and opportunities for engaging more in areas of interest to them personally, and possibly limit spontaneous sharing. To reconcile this somewhat, one provider is offering a Facebook-style homepage version where participants can post a status for themselves and share that with other community members.
- Smart pricing – The better options now offer an “unlimited” pricing model where your license fee allows you to launch as many research activities and discussions as you would like. This is a great attribute because it allows the community data collection to be flexible in type and frequency – a key benefit of communities. The best ones offer this at a price that is extremely favorable versus one-off studies, making do-it-yourself communities affordable and competitive within today’s tighter client budgets.