Research communities are now a tried and true methodology; proven to be a flexible and efficient way to conduct qualitative research and get closer to customers. That said, short-term and long-term communities are different animals and need to be treated as such. This short blog post is meant to give you a little guidance when thinking about and planning your long-term research communities.
Before anything else begins, you need to carefully consider the resources required. Long-term communities will often require multiple staff members, some of which might be full-time. Additionally, it’s crucial to have a stakeholder champion and point person. Someone who will advocate for the community internally, as well as become the person who can liaise with their internal clients and help filter and prioritize research questions.
Recruiting for long-term communities is often very different to recruiting into short term communities. Larger sample sizes and longer engagements mean you have to focus on both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives. With larger sample sizes, budgets can’t often handle the burden of traditional qualitative recruiting or incentives. Partners need to be selected very carefully as a consequence.
Make sure to vet them, uncovering if they have a foundational understanding of recruiting for qualitative research, as opposed to surveys. This will save you a lot of headaches as you go along. Refreshing the community monthly or quarterly also needs to be considered - not just to weed out non-participative members, but equally importantly to swap people out to introduce new opinions that prevent the community becoming stale.
Managing the Participants and Community
In regards to managing and engaging the participants, just building the community is not going to be enough. From the onset, the community needs to be something that the participants want to be a part of and feel connected to, with that connection growing over time. It’s impossible to provide monetary incentives only for communities, so different techniques need to be employed to maintain engagement; some ideas are noted below.
There are two key elements to managing the community. The first is actually becoming a part of it. Be there with them and give of yourself as you’re asking them to give to you. Provide feedback, positive reinforcement through recognition and gaming systems. Give them the opportunity to start to contribute to the community on things and in ways that are interesting to them. Create leaderboards and then give the leaders additional roles within the community to build engagement. Provide enough structure that they know what to expect and have a calendar, but remain fluid in your design to allow for some fun.
Equally as important is feeding back results and client feedback into the community. Your client needs to have a presence. It’s part of the intrinsic reward system, just like the leader board. Let them know how they are impacting things and remind them that their voices are truly being heard.
When handled correctly, long term research communities can be incredibly valuable tools for any brand that wishes to bring their consumers closer.
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