The Maze of Models in Online Insights Communities
With multiple options for structuring online insights communities, getting started with communities can be tricky territory for beginners. Here are four examples of formats for consideration and a quick kick-start.
It has become increasingly difficult to answer the client question, “So, how should this online community be structured?” Prior to 2007, the classic community was the defacto model. Today, the models range widely, having evolved through researcher experimentation to better meet objectives and further engage participants.
Below is a range of what I have seen in the marketplace (by no means an exhaustive list). For the sake of simplicity, I’m only referring to private communities, specifically recruited for a client and not open to public members. (BTW, the names for each community are my own personal terminology since there is little to no standardized nomenclature here.)
1. The classic community. Around for over a decade now, this model generally includes 300-500 members with homogenous pyschographics and demographics who are geographically dispersed. Usually, the members check their private community website weekly for brief research activities to participate in, like a short qualitative “survey” or a brief group discussion. Any and all members are welcome to respond to the activities posted, with nominal incentives for each activity completed. Great for frequent, focused inquiries and ongoing guidance from a key consumer group.
2. The in-depth community. This model started to emerge around 2007 when online qualitative platforms that allowed for more one-on-one work became increasingly easier to use, including those supporting virtual ethnography and video diary studies. This model still includes a website where weekly activities are launched to the entire community, but it also includes in-depth studies which occur less often, like monthly or quarterly. For the in-depth studies, only a subset of the community is included, after being re-screened to meet additional key criteria germane to the in-depth topic. This model allows researchers to go deeper with respondents by being able to relate each member’s various activities and studies to one another, while using the most appropriate research tool for the issue at hand.
3. The panel community. This one may seem like an oxymoron of a name, and it’s hard to argue that. The design is one where “community” members have little to no interaction with each other. Most, if not all, of the studies are in-depth studies. This model is usually built around various segments, so the membership is not homogeneous, which does not lend itself naturally to member interaction. The main advantages of this model are having a range of target consumer segments ready for faster turnaround and lower recruiting costs vs. one-off in-depth studies.
4. The hybrid community. This style of community is built around a quant panel of 1,000+ members, a subset of which are rotated periodically into a classical qualitative community in order to provide deeper understanding of quantitative results. This can be an effective solution for clients on a budget (when compared to one-off quant & qual work).
Each of the formats mentioned above can range in size and duration. And, recruiting methods can also be highly customized to support the community objectives. There is no ONE way to create an online insights community! So, be brave in your designs, then please come back and share those with us here.