Bias In Research Communities

Online communities change the way we think about ourselves and those around us.

I was recently discussing this with a friend of mine, through Facebook chat, of course. She is a researcher in a psychology study (currently under review) that found Facebook users often experience jealousy and a certain degree of dissatisfaction with the current state of their lives as a result of exposure to other users’ posts.

People in our online social networks typically only post (i.e. promote) positive aspects of their lives that effectively creates the illusion of a failure-free population. When we occupy these networks our perceived flaws or failures are magnified in the absence of other similar lived and shared experiences.

This study is an intriguing example of a community’s collective bias on a massive scale. The social climate, not necessarily the forum or network itself, encourages positive contributions while discouraging negatives ones (arguably to our own personal and social detriment). Continue reading

Online Qualitative Research Best Practices Webinar

We recently delivered a free webinar on the subject of brand engagement, specifically to discuss the topic of online qualitative research best practices.

Joining Ramius on the webinar was Luke Cahill, Managing Principal at REAL Insight who are doing some fantastic, innovative research using Recollective. In the webinar we talk about the things to consider when planning an online qual research project and Luke walks through several case studies and best practices.

We’ve kept a copy of the video which you can access and share through Vimeo ( or watch below.

We hope you enjoy it! As ever, please get in touch with any questions.

Recollective partner Lexia wins Merca 2.0 award for best market research agency in Mexico

Ramius is extremely pleased to offer our congratulations to Lexia, a leading Recollective partner in Mexico, on winning the 2014 Merca 2.0 award for best marketing research agency. 

Here’s a snippet from their blog post, or read the full release here.

MERCA 2.0 AWARD BEST AGENCY 2014LEXIA wants to share with you this news that fills us with joy and pride of having been awarded for the second time by the renowned magazine Merca 2.0 for Best Market Research Agency, the first time was in 2008.

These Merca 2.0 prizes are awarded to the most outstanding companies in marketing industry domestic and international. Thus, the leading magazine honors marketing agencies, media and strategies more relevant this year.

In the twelfth edition of the award, the editorial team selected players in the industry that this year were protagonists thanks to the effectiveness of their campaigns, achievements and recognitions met, as well as the growth and impact they had at a business level.

Recollective: A Tool for Testing Campaigns and Brand Identity Elements

Unknown-3For this post, long-term Ramius research agency partner, Andreas Noe, a founding partner at Phase 5, shares his thoughts about using Recollective for testing campaigns and exploring elements of brand identity.

Andreas has more than 25 years of hands-on experience in marketing research and marketing consulting spanning many sectors, including financial services, professional services, information and media, technology and manufacturing.

He also has experience with many research methods, including quantitative, qualitative and data mining methods. At Phase 5, he has managed countless engagements, and developed particular expertise in performance measurement and Voice of the Customer (VoC) studies. Continue reading

Improving Data Quality in Insight Communities

One of the common concerns we hear from clients who have never run an insight community is: how to ensure high quality data?

In any insight community, it’s reasonable to expect some amount of vaguely worded responses or failure to address the research question. While fear of not collecting enough ”good data” is often quickly forgotten when the output produced by these communities is analyzed, there are certain approaches you should take to minimize poor responses.

First, insight communities are still relatively new. Many participants will have little or no past experience with them which means it’s very important to set out firm requirements and be as clear as possible about your expectations. This sets the stage for the “right behaviour” and ultimately helps build “social proofs” that reaffirm it. In Recollective, that type of clear communication is done on the study homepage (summary tab) and when posing the research question (task). One of our research partners, Allpoints, has run many Recollective insight communities using this approach:

“In our experience, the single most important thing to do is to set the respondents expectations early and often.  The summary page is the first place we do this, but at the beginning of each day or session, we start with a prompt that outlines the plan for that session.  Then at the end, we go ahead and set them up for what will be expected in the next session.  This constant communication is key to our success and to the respondents enjoyment of the research experience.”

Erin Sattenfield, Director of Research Services at AllPoints Research, Inc.

Continue reading

Engaged Research

This is the first in a short series of blog posts on the subject of Engaged Research. We’re starting with “Why is engagement important?” and “How to better engage participants?”. The next in the series will tackle the role of a Research Moderator evolving into a Research Community Manager. We’ll finish with our thoughts about where the focus on engagement in research can lead.

First some context

Having a background of implementing literally hundreds of online communities for a myriad of business uses, we’re in a unique position of being able to look at research communities from a different angle to most agencies and solution providers.

In business applications (often marketing-led), one community goal typically sits above all others: engagement.

A lot of effort goes into building technology that stimulates engagement, designing and adding community topics and using content that deeply engages members. Around that, the most successful business communities have strong Community Managers that work to create active, lively interactions that sustain and grow member engagement. Not to mention the need to track engagement as a measure of community health and demonstrate a ROI… Continue reading

Use Of Video In Online Research

We’ve just completed a round of interviews with customers using our Recollective platform to talk about what they anticipate to be important online research capabilities for 2013. Many of those research agencies spoke about the increasing importance of video in their presentation of findings and recommendations.

Unsurprisingly, after discussing the subject with them in more depth and looking back over studies we’ve run in 2012, a number of different approaches and perspectives were used that I think are useful to summarize.

Asynchronous Video Activities

First, since Recollective provides capabilities for asynchronous video, I should also clarify that I’m going to focus on that rather than synchronous approaches such as webcam-based focus groups or one-on-one webcam interviews. Asynchronous video isn’t done in realtime; it’s most often captured by a study participant and done at a time convenient to them. The video is then provided to moderators for review and analysis. The participant uses either a camcorder they own, a device the researcher provides or their smartphone or webcam.

Typically we find that most researchers prefer to mix video activities into a wider qualitative study, but occasionally we have a study that’s entirely video-based. Both seem to work effectively, although in general any study with video activities does tend to require a significantly higher incentive for participants to complete them. For example, one Canadian researcher we’ve worked with distributed an iPod Touch to participants in a mixed video / photo study after which the participant got to keep the device as their incentive payment.

The highest response rates seen in Recollective so far have come from webcam-based activities, possibly because it’s the easiest for participants to complete. Of those, most activities are designed to capture respondents simply talking into the webcam to answer questions. It’s pretty standard stuff, but the researchers we spoke to love how quickly and effectively video highlights from those webcam recordings can get a point across to an end client. Continue reading

A Shift to Longer Duration, Online Research Communities

Just before the new year, Ramius quietly celebrated the first anniversary of our Recollective software’s commercial launch. That first year was an incredible learning experience for the Ramius team and we continue to gain a tremendous amount of feedback from our customers and prospects on each and every project. Everything that’s been shared with us contributes to improvements in the software, supporting services and helps us to envision how to innovate Recollective into a vital online platform for research and insights in the months and years ahead.

We’ve seen a shift over this first year in project size. We initially found a typical study involved approximately 50 participants and most often lasted for one or two weeks. As the year progressed, the typical number of participants remained at a similar level but we found the study duration extended to one month or longer. On many occasions we also saw that Recollective was being used in a sequence of projects. Sometimes, this involved numerous phases of online qualitative research, all done on Recollective. Other times, Recollective served as the online qual platform in a study that preceded or followed quant work. We also saw a number of very large continuous communities launched on Recollective, used by agencies to provide their brand clients with as-needed consumer insights.

We were interested to understand this shift and whether it was as a result of the platform maturing, the market evolving or simply our customers becoming more comfortable using Recollective. 
Not surprisingly, after looking at all the projects we completed and talking to many of our Recollective customers, this shift appears to be a result of all of those reasons.

At launch, the platform was most easily understood and categorized by researchers as being from the bulletin board family. Accordingly, early projects were often designed as short bulletin board studies. As the year progressed, we saw research designs incorporate more activity-based approaches as researchers learned how to take advantage of Recollective’s activities and tasks engine for immersive research exercises.

Towards the latter part of year one, our market research agency partners were able to pitch and win more community-oriented engagements with their clients based on Recollective. When asked, they indicated it was partly due to there being more community-projects available and their confidence in the platform strengthening with more features to want to conduct longer studies with increased participant engagement.


The typical nature of a 50-participant, 2-week Recollective project involves something like insight needs for a client’s innovation and product development processes. The business functions are involved in generating and gathering ideas to develop into a new product or service and will have questions that research can help answer at various times.

It’s a familiar pattern: an agency is commissioned by their client and conducts a study. The agency debriefs the client with findings and the client integrates the new insights into their thinking. Later, as new questions and budget emerges, the client commissions a follow-on project with new questions. Sometimes, a follow-on project may integrate a survey along with Recollective’s qualitative capabilities. Essentially, this kind of project maps directly on to a common process for satisfying marketing research needs by hiring agencies to answer questions via small projects.

A specific Recollective example is a case where our agency partner worked with a global telecommunications company to conduct studies of the lifestyles of its target consumers — the data was useful to the business team as the product concept was being developed. Later, a follow-on project was done to have these same consumers test and give feedback about the actual product but this time feeding back to both product managers and also the marketing team.


To provide an example of how a similar end-client can use a longer-term study, we can stay in the telecommunications industry. A Recollective partner used the software to power an online community / sounding board which was established with 400 US-based customers following interviews and focus groups.

The business focus of the longer duration online research community was to inform its business decisions about streamlining customer service systems and processes. For example, the community was consulted to:

  • identify areas where systems and processes could be improved
  • ensure consistency and excellence at points of customer contact
  • provide insights to help develop new customer support tools, systems and processes
  • test and optimize customer communications

Some key advantages of moving to a longer ranging community approach included:

Ideas from internal and external sources
A continuous community approach supports a customer-centric business. While we saw small projects commissioned to understand a consumer segment or to test product concepts, the community approach is being used even earlier and throughout the various product development process stages with customers being involved early on to suggest product ideas and improvements.

We’ve seen studies that involve panels representative of target consumers to recruitment of samples from among communities of passionate and enthusiastic customers (and, in the example mentioned, customers who were detractors).

From standalone projects to continuous insights
Business units can gain insights faster when they have a ‘sounding board’ of customers to poll compared to the normal process of initiating a new study project (e.g. write business requirements and RFP, select agency, agency recruits, runs study, reports, etc.). Quicker feedback empowers the business function with insights to make better informed decisions, potentially getting to market faster and reducing rework.comm

Research as engagement
In a longer ranging community, insights which resulted in something being actioned by the company help the participant feel that their opinions mattered, bridging the gap between marketing and research by strengthening loyalty and encouraging positive word-of-mouth promotion.

Technology provides a high degree of flexibility by allowing for multiple methods over longer time frames
Modern online research platforms allow for a variety of methods to be used to gather insights. For example, using the social features in Recollective, we’ve seen participants begin interacting with one another in discussion forums and raise questions not even considered by the end client. Then, with more time to interact, researchers are better able to design and execute follow-on activities to test and confirm insights gleaned from discussions and earlier exercises, adding to the overall value delivered to the client.

Of course, these are just some of the reasons why researchers continue to increase the time and participant numbers for their online qualitative studies. We’ll continue to monitor this trend and will share more examples with you as we continue on in Recollective’s second year!

Gain Competitive Advantage by Doing it Yourself

With DIY (do-it-yourself) a trending theme among many conferences we have attended this year, not to mention the new and emerging DIY technologies appearing for online research, it’s not surprising that companies are beginning to ask, “what happens when non-researchers collect and analyze data for their own organizations?”

During her presentation at the 2012 AMA Research and Strategy Summit, Nicole Gagnon (Senior Director of Market Research at Thomson Reuters) spoke of how they were empowering non-research staff to conduct in-house DIY research and utilize “one platform” for that would support a new customer-centric business model. She explained about a self-described “aha!” moment during the initial DIY observational study in which the research was carried out by internal staff of various business functions. They were trained and supported throughout the process but most importantly, took ownership of the data. As a consequence, they were able to trust and rely on their analysis to support business decisions.

While it had originally been an experiment, DIY seemed so promising that Nicole came up with a more sophisticated program. With a limited budget, they were able to extend DIY research across her whole division to help produce insights and gain a competitive edge.

In-House Means Ongoing

One of their most successful applications of the DIY research program at Thomson Reuters is with customer service issues. Under the program, Marketing staff can continuously conduct standardized customer satisfaction interviews and surveys to better understand the customer experience. Standardized questions allows for the collection and normalization of data for analysis on a large scale, examination of trends and for future compatibility and use.

DIY research also supports customer retention efforts by segmenting dissatisfied customers through customer service surveys. If the customer is unhappy, the interviewer will ask if they would like to have a representative follow-up. If so, the request is tracked in the division’s CRM system which triggers an appropriate staff member to contact the customer. That simple but vital extra step not only captures business insights but can perhaps save a hard-won customer.

DIY Technology & Training

Something we know for sure at Ramius is that when pushing out any software for use throughout an organization, it requires a mixture of internal support and intuitive features to be a success. So while there’s a legitimate fear that DIY research will provide questionable insights due to a lack of formal research training and experience, at Thomson Reuters employees were not left to their own devices. To support this research process and to manage bias risks, Nicole’s research team (comprising of only four individuals) mentor, support and train the non-researchers on data collection and analysis.

We think that is critical. Nicole’s division found it especially helpful to have role-based rights that had been built into the research platform they used to support an approved research workflow. Studies would never go live until they were vetted by her research team. With a strong research foundation in place, the research technology was then integrated to their CRM system that enabled her division to “close the loop” and share useful insights with the appropriate employees and on an ongoing basis.


So why were we so excited to hear the Thomson Reuters case study at the AMA RSS conference? We think it summarizes very neatly the business value of DIY research. For Nicole’s division, this new system has enabled them to do more, faster and with less. The volume of internal research is up by 400% and they are now doing over 40 annual customer feedback projects involving internal data collection. These projects range from studies that inform product development, win/loss situations and brand or customer service issues. The data and insights collected do not get archived once the project is complete, instead the data and insights become a strategic resource, accessible by anyone in the company and used to make better decisions.

Ultimately, we believe that competitive advantage is gained by the businesses that are best able to quickly respond to customer needs for improved products and services as well as richer experiences. DIY research done on online software (like Recollective) is a very promising approach to get there.

The Week Ahead: AMA Research and Strategy Summit + Ramius Webinar

A shout-out to the folks attending the American Marketing Association’s Research and Strategy Summit in Orlando, Florida this week! I’ve met and learned from many marketing research professionals having had the chance to attend this conference in 2009 and 2010. Well-produced by the AMA and the event organizing committee, it offers excellent opportunities for networking and conversation among an engaged community of researchers.

(Above: a recap video of AMA MRC 2010)

If, like me, you can’t attend the 2011 Summit in real life, consider following along on Twitter via the hashtags #amaresearch and #mrx. As well, the AMA will be live-streaming a portion of tomorrow’s Summit program! To participate, you can register via

A change this year is to the event name. What had been the Marketing Research Conference is now the Research and Strategy Summit. Why? According to the Summit literature, it’s about “not just doing research, but applying strategic thinking to the research function and how it serves the goals of your company.” Certainly, this name change does reflect the transformation going on in MR.

Coincidentally, Ramius is sponsoring an AMA webcast following the conclusion of the Summit. The webcast is entitled Real Research in a Virtual World and will be kicked-off with an introduction by Leonard Murphy from GreenBook Blog. Those in Orlando this week will get a sample of Lenny’s content as he will be leading a Summit 2011 session only a few hours before our webinar! You can preview Lenny’s recent GreenBook research and findings in his blog post at  We think it’s interesting stuff!