Hump Day Weekly Round-Up — 30/11

When I first started at Ramius almost a year ago I tried my best to shorten the learning curve as much as possible. As Ramius designs and develops online community and social networking software, I found myself being exposed to topics like Web 2.0, social media, customer-centricity, customer communities, crowdsourcing, cloud computing — certainly not topics I’ve ever needed to be familiar with! And with the launch of our new Recollective software, I’m now being exposed to the marketing research industry with acronyms like MROC, IDIs, etc… The list is vast!

One way to immerse myself in all of this is to meet with my colleague Simon Chen from time-to-time and discuss trends and technologies in our industry. Recently, this was more formalized as a weekly lunch meeting that we have dubbed our Weekly Hump Day Roundup. We find it’s a fun way to set a regular time during our work week and keep up-to-date with what’s going on around us. Doing it together helps us build on each others insights. Since we do leverage social media to do this, we thought we would also blog, tweet — generally share with you what interests and inspires us. And we hope you’ll feed us back what you think!

For our inaugural Roundup post, I thought I would let you know of some blogs that I started to read early on.

As a technology company with know-how in online communities and social business software, we follow popular blogs like:

TechCrunch – Plain and simple we visit this site because Tech Crunch is the tech industry’s bible. That’s why we read it.

Mashable – Mashable is awesome. We’re never disappointed when we visit their site…. everyday! It’s a quick read and keeps us current with an emphasis on social media news.

ReadWriteWeb – For the similar reasons as why we like Mashable, we scan the headlines of RWW daily.

Bokardo – Simon still wonders who at Ramius borrowed (and never returned) his copy of Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter, the Bokardo author. Read it to be inspired by a guy that thinks and cares about user experience when designing web application interfaces.

Steve Rubel – Understanding social media through the eyes of an industry thought leader.

Web Strategy – Ramius has followed blog author Jeremiah Owyang for several years. Part of the reason is because Jeremiah covered our ‘white label’ online community and social networking platforms as an analyst. But also because he keeps us up to date with how companies can use technology to connect and engage with customers.

Alltop – With our new Recollective software, Ramius has designed an offering for the research and insights space. We scan blog aggregation sites like Alltop for the latest in Market and Qualitative Research.

Some daily blogs on our must-read list include:

Greenbook Market Research Blog – This blog is a good source of NEW market research thinking. The Ramius team very much enjoys the thought and research that goes into the GRIT Reports.

Building My Own Ladder and Spych- We consider Ben Smithee‘s personal blog, and the one for his company Spych, to be great reads. Ben ‘gets’ the impact of the Social Web on a brand’s relationship to their customers and applies this to challenge MR. Something the Ramius team very much respects and finds commonalities with.

Research Rockstar – For a firm that has expert know-how in online communities and designing and building supporting technology, the lot of us are not researchers beyond taking research method courses in Uni. Research Rocks is a good way to learn the basics of quant and qual research.

The LoveStats Blog – In a recent blog we mentioned that the Ramius TMRE Team was unable to leave our booth and attend any sessions. So instead of learning through them we did the next best thing and followed along with Annie Pettit as she live blogged summaries. In addition to providing insights into TMRE and other industry conferences, this blog is a good way to get a different take on market research trends.

As a new recruit, the first three sites on this list were tremendously helpful for learning the ins and outs of the industry space that Ramius occupies. Once we decided to build Recollective the rest of the sites/blogs on this list were immensely helpful for learning about the market research industry.

From these sites, and many others, Simon and I will regularly highlight individual blogs or blog aggregate sites that we find insightful, thought provoking, controversial and most importantly interesting. So stay tuned for more Weekly Hump Day RoundUps!

Where Would We Be Without Our Stakeholders? Pt. II

How many Market Researchers does it take to design the ultimate online qualitative research tool? We hope a handful will do it!

As mentioned in my last blog, earlier this year we sat down with some of our existing customers, who happen to be Market Researchers, and peppered them with questions about their idea of the dream online tool. The feedback we received was overwhelming! In the many hours we spent talking with them we took dozens of pages worth of notes. The result of those conversations and notes was Recollective, our soon to be released research platform.

All the researchers reading this are no doubt wondering what our consultants said. I’ve broken down their requests into categories and added what I believe are the top 2 – 4 feature requests for each.

Coding Content for Reports

  • The ability to highlight text in a content item or discussion reply and apply one or more codes that can then be used to generate custom reports of verbatims.
  • The ability to have overlapping sets of highlighted areas (e.g. the entire paragraph is tagged “Negative Sentiment”, while one line in that same text can be tagged as “Email Support”).

Reporting and Participant Tracking

  • Integrating a tool that assists in the review of qualitative research data is critical. Collecting and exporting the data must be quick, automated and easy for researchers.
  • The ability to filter by a single person is useful for gauging participation, as well as for drilling in more depth to view that person’s full contribution.
  • Easily generating a list of participants that either met or didn’t meet a participation criterial is very useful for providing proper compensation.
  • Email reminders for lack of participation would be useful for maintaining a quote of active participants.

Guiding Users via Tasks

  • Admins have an interface to select questions, discussions and polls as an activity to be completed by participants. Activities can be targeted to specific segments of participants.
  • Tasks can have a “should be completed by” date, which triggers an email to the user if it is not completed on time.
  • A person-by-person breakdown of task completion would be useful (e.g. Mary Smith: 2/3 mandatory tasks completed and 3/15 optional tasks completed).

Participant Responses

  • The ability to hide other participants’ responses until a response is entered, thereby  avoiding that person being influenced by others.
  • The ability to embed images and videos into responses.
  • Discussions could offer the ability to ask an open-ended question, which is automatically followed up by a poll.

Data Export

  • Export should include the name of the person and a by-line summarizing the basics of their bio “Mary Smith, East Region, Customer for 5+ years, female”. The byline compositions of fields should be customizable.
  • RTF or Word-native export is ideal

Which of these features will make it into Recollective’s platform? I’m not telling… yet! When v1 is released in the next few weeks I’ll have more information on which of these requests will be included on day one, which will be included in future versions, and which, if any, didn’t make the cut at all. For those of you who can’t wait, you can download a teaser feature sheet here.

Let us know via comments what your thoughts are on this list. Did our research partners hit or miss the mark? In your opinion, what features are must-haves for a one-stop-shop online insight community, designed for market researchers?

Where Would We Be Without Our Stakeholders? Pt. I

Gone are the days when company execs meet in boardrooms to decide which products we as consumers need. In order to stay relevant and succeed in today’s competitive marketplace it’s necessary for companies to engage their consumer stakeholders to hear what they actually want. Increasingly companies are looking to consumers to not only help design products, but also to advertise via word-of-mouth a la social media and to ultimately help shape the future of their businesses.

Examples of this can be seen absolutely everywhere, from small start-ups to major international conglomerates. In the 19th century the Oxford English Dictionary asked volunteers to contribute sentence examples for every word in the English language. More recently, Starbucks leveraged consumer ideas with MyStarbucksIdea.com, while Dell (perhaps the most famous example of them all) engaged customers with their Idea Storm community.

The three cases highlighted above are all examples of large companies, but what about smaller ones? One such company that I’m particularly fond of (and not only because I work there) is Ramius Corporation.  Traditionally a vendor of community platforms, Ramius has taken a slight turn. About a year ago we started noticing a trend; our customers were increasingly using our Sixent platform to conduct MROCs. Sixent, a traditional enterprise social network, actually performed quite well in this situation. However, because our customers were increasingly asking for this type of ESN adaptation we thought “why not build a product specifically for market researchers?”

Unlike large companies that can call upon an army of volunteers, we sat down with a handful of our Market Research customers. Over the course of a few months we learned what their idea of the ultimate, dream online qualitative market research tool would be. Based on these conversations and our expertise building social networking software, we designed Recollective.  Recollective is a natural complement to our successful suite of social networking platforms. Although not released yet, we’re anticipating great success. Like the success stories highlighted above, we listened to what our customers were asking for, solicited them for advice on must-have tools/features and have designed what we believe will be every qualitative researcher’s online dream tool. Check out our feature sheet to read the specifics, or stay tuned for more blogs coming shortly that will highlight why every market researcher needs to be aware of this innovative, ground breaking technology!

To Conference or Not to Conference?

I’m not sure about other industries out there, but in the software industry there seems to be an endless number of conferences around the world each year that all seem advantageous for one reason or another. Upon opening my eReader every day I am constantly bombarded with references to, comments on, re-caps of or announcements for different conferences. To me, a relative newbie in this space, they all seem incredibly interesting and informative, but beyond that are they really worth it?

 

That has been the burning question around the office for the past month. With our new market research platform set to be released in a week we’re amping up marketing initiatives to promote our ground breaking product Recollective. One way we thought to do this (as well as to network and educate ourselves) was to choose a conference that would allow us to share what we’ve been working so hard on. It just so happens that TMRE in Orlando, FL not only coincides with our launch date, but is also a perfect industry fit for us. Was this aligning of the stars fate? Probably, but that doesn’t mean that it was an easy decision to decide whether or not to go.

When deciding to attend a conference there are so many variables to take into consideration:

  • Cost – whether attending or exhibiting at a conference, cost is perhaps the biggest factor. Especially if flights and accommodations are necessary expenses, attendance can be very costly.
  • ROI – from a share holder’s perspective, what is the projected return on investment? This is sometimes hard to determine, therefore hard to justify the expense of attending.
  • Time – especially in a small company, losing one or more employees for a few days significantly cuts down on production and (wo)man power in the office.
  • Relevance – even if a company has a large sum of money set aside for conferences, there are so many out there that it is very important to choose the right one to attend.

The list goes on, but I’ll stop there. While searching the interwebs for answers to those questions I was faced with numerous blogs that list the 10 Reasons Why You Should Attend a Conference in Person, provide Do’s and Don’ts for conference frequenting, and provide helpful tips on how to get the most bang from your conference buck. From reading various forum posts it seems that some people seem to swear by them, while others think they’re pretty much a waste of time. There doesn’t seem to be a clear yes or no answer out there for whether or not attending conferences is advantageous.

So how do you decide if it’s right? Careful research and planning.

  • Take a look at the agenda to see if there are enough relevant and informative presentations to justify attending.
  • Review the attendee list to determine the networking potential.
  • Check out how it was received and rated by attendees from previous years.

That being said, I’ve kept you all in suspense for long enough. I know the question on everyone’s mind is, are we going to the conference?

The answer is yes, and we couldn’t be more excited about it! Alfred Jay, our CEO, Phillip Dame, COO, and Simon Chen, our resident conference expert/enthusiast and Senior Consultant, will be gracing the sunny state of Florida with their presences to attend The Market Research Event from November 7-9. For all of you attending you can find them at booth 809. All of us back here in cloudy Ottawa look forward to following along with them… but from the comfort of our Aeron office chairs. In the coming weeks you can be sure that we’ll have lots to report on different presentations, Recollective’s reception and the conference as a whole. Also, look out for up to the minute #TMRE tweets from @RamiusCorp and @Sylc.

A New Opportunity

Ramius is first and foremost a social software company. Our focus from day 1 has been to build exceptional online communities and enterprise social networks. Over the course of the past decade or so, we’ve amassed a wealth of experience of how to apply this kind of technology and have achieved some amazing business results. Our team has built social networks for organizations ranging from high-tech software behemoths to federal government agencies. We’ve implemented and managed global partner and customer networks for some of the world’s largest companies and at the same time created small collaborative workspaces for startups and local not-for-profit organizations.

As you can imagine, it has always been a challenge to determine how to best promote our software and services. After all, online communities can be applied to an extremely broad range of markets and potential customers. However, at Ramius, that situation is now beginning to change. In the last eighteen months, we’ve both witnessed and been a party to a shift in the way our software is being used. More frequently, we are working with marketing research organizations to build online communities in which they can engage customers and conduct research. Sometimes that’s ongoing communities with thousands of people that blur the line between research and marketing. Just as frequently, it’s a short-term insight community for a specific qualitative research project.

With some slight pokes and a prod or two from our online marketing, the volume of inquiries has grown over the last 6 months. What does that mean? Well, we think our experience of online community and software development provide an opportunity to do something rather special in the marketing research and customer insights space. That something begins with a new product called Recollective.

We’re not abandoning enterprise social networks or corporate online communities. They remain core to what we do but, given our experiences over the past eighteen months, it would be foolish to ignore the growing interest in online solutions for marketing research and insights.

Of course, we’re far from being experts in the world of qualitative research. What we bring to the table is deep and varied experience as developers of engaging social software. As Recollective has been designed and built over the last year, we’ve been lucky enough to work with some great research agency partners that have helped and inspired us on this path. In fact, we are seeking more partners to work with for Recollective because one thing we know for sure – we can achieve much more by working together.

There are some very exciting times ahead at Ramius for our existing and new customers and our future partners. We hope you will continue to read our blog as we evolve and grow into this space and perhaps share the opportunity with us.