My New Favourite Question

Not long ago I found myself in the midst of what was disguised as a quick online survey but proved to be a significant investment of my time. I opted in because I wanted to contribute; I opted out because I didn’t want to contribute that much.

Striking the right balance between workload and incentive is difficult.  When I’m working with a team that’s new to research communities I can, understandably, expect to hear at least one question dealing with this dilemma:

“How many questions should/can I ask in a day?”
“How much time can I expect participants to spend contributing to the community on a given day?”
“Is X enough incentive for Y time spent?”

I can provide some broad guidelines based on my exposure to other communities but I always conclude with a confident, “it depends.” The answers to these questions depend on a number of variables: demographics, subject matter, incentive offered etc. 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

Recollective Now Offers Private Messaging and More…

Out with the old and in with the new – although not stated exactly like this, that is my summation of this year’s GRIT report. As written in the opening remarks by editor Leonard Murphy, “market research is still changing, but at this point the change has been acknowledged by the majority and embraced by the many.” What this is referring to is the move from old research techniques, such as telephone surveys, to what is being called ‘New MR’.

Recollective is quickly making a name for itself as one of the most innovative new software platforms available to agencies looking to conduct New MR. Hot on the heels of the Video Task released only a few weeks ago, we’re delighted to say that we’ve further expanded the capabilities to include new private messaging, email broadcast and activity preview features.

Private Messaging Feature Update

Private Messaging is an important piece in a researcher’s community management toolkit. If you’re currently conducting a Recollective study, the Messages tool enables participants to contact you and for you to privately converse with them.

Messages are delivered to the participant’s web-based inbox inside Recollective. For participants these messages are viewed as a single threaded discussion, with responses kept inline below the original message. Admins see an index page listing all active message threads. Messages marked ‘Awaiting a reply’ by admins make it easy to identify any participants slow to respond to your questions.

Private messaging is important for researchers who want to probe for further insights from participants outside of a specific task response or open discussion topic. They can even be used for asynchronous text-based IDIs.

One of our goals is to make our customers jobs as easy as possible while using Recollective, so when it’s time to undertakde the task of analyzing messages, they can be coded, excerpted and included in transcripts just like any other participant data.

Email Broadcast Feature Updates

Not only have we tackled private messaging, but we’ve also made huge improvements to Recollective’s Email Broadcast feature.

Simply filter participants by the appropriate criteria, such as the date they were added to the study, last activity completion, segments – or hand select individuals using the people-picker. We’ve also included the ability to insert dynamic fields (such as first name, last name, or username) so that your emails can be professionally personalized to the recipient.

Task Preview Update

In addition to messaging, we’ve improved usability for researchers by introducing a feature to preview Activities before they are made available to participants. This enables researchers to experience the task flow as a participant to check logic and links, catch those typos and double check that it is what you envisioned.


I’m not sure how our team managed to pack all of this (plus some unglamourous bug fixes and UI updates) into one release, but they did. If you have any questions about these updates, would like more information on conducting Recollective studies or just want to chat with a friendly Canadian company, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. If not, then watch out for more changes coming to your Recollective site next month – of course we’re at it again!

Supercharge Your Recollective Study With New Video & Language Capabilities!

It’s been a busy couple of months. Since launching Recollective in November we’ve implemented some huge research communities and lots of short projects. We’ve been listening to every bit of feedback we get and are delighted that you’re all finding it such an easy-to-use and powerful platform.

One feature we’ve been itching to release from the very beginning is Video task types. We’re really pleased to announce that it’s live and you can now create Video tasks in any study. Your participants will be able to upload and share their videos, start conversations about them and spread their ‘likes’ around.

The outcome? Richer and deeper insights from participants. Watch as they use products, shop or even complete a video diary. With results like that, who wouldn’t be excited!

To allow for maximum flexibility, videos can be submitted in a variety of different formats (MPEG, VP8, WMV, etc.), using almost any device (computer, tablet, smartphone, flip camera). The outcome is a converted H.264 video with a back-up Flash version. Don’t be satisfied with low-resolution grainy images, Recollective accepts HD video upload, playback and download, so you can watch participants in cystal clear clarity.

Video tasks and diaries are enabled in your site now in “demo mode” which let’s you try it out with 15 second clips. To upgrade to the full feature, give your account representative a call for pricing.

Our Multilingual Capabilities are Growing

Another new feature that we’re really excited about is our support for two new languages. Out of the box, Recollective can now be switched between English, French and Spanish. Participants choose the language they prefer for the interface, researchers can create questions and comment in any language too; all of which makes Recolelctive the perfect platform for studies in multiple languages.

With more languages to be introduced throughout 2012, now is a great time to start planning your international research projects on Recollective. Of course, if you have a specific language that’s required for an upcoming project, let us know a month in advance and we will try to accommodate your request.

For more info, why don’t you get in touch with us?

A Ramius Reflection: IIR USA – The Market Research Event 2011 #TMRE

Late last Wednesday night the Ramius team returned from Florida tired but excited about their trip. The TMRE conference exceeded all of our expectations.

Before leaving, we drafted a schedule that was packed with sessions and keynotes to attend, booth duty and of course some time to network. However, when our team arrived they quickly realized this plan had to be thrown out the window.

The guys were so busy at the booth that they didn’t have a chance to leave it for the entire three days.On their return, Alfred Jay, CEO, Philippe Dame, COO and Simon Chen, Senior Consultant debriefed the rest of us and here are a few snippets from that conversation that I thought you might be interested in:

 

What are your overall impressions of TMRE?

Simon:TMRE 2011 was a great event for Ramius to exhibit at! Timing-wise, it coincided with our launch of Recollective, Ramius’ new cloud-based MROC software. TMRE was well-attended and our booth team enjoyed meeting many of the 1,200-odd delegates and introducing them to Ramius, the company, and to Recollective, the product. Hat tip to the IIR event team that planned the event.

Philippe: It was definitely worth exhibiting at TMRE as it’s a well-focused conference that clearly attracts the decision makers in the market research industry. We spent most of our time at our exhibit booth but I would have loved to attend the sessions. That said, I learned a lot in the conversations we had and look forward to attending again next year.

What did you enjoy about the event?

Alfred: The conference was certainly valuable in terms of speaking to a broad spectrum of people in the MR industry. The conversations we had were very valuable in setting our future direction.

Philippe: Meeting people from a wide range of disciplines that make up the MR industry. We got lots of valuable and positive feedback about Recollective.

What was the hardest part of the three day conference?

Philippe: We had planned to attend some sessions and thus alternate standing at our booth. It was busy enough that we never left the booth and so we stood for a very long time without a chair in sight. Standing all day just killed my back and is a reminder to hit the gym!

Simon: Not being able to participate in the main conference program which had a terrific line up.

What was your most memorable moment at TMRE?

Simon: Two come to mind. One was during my tour of the exhibit hall during the Monday evening reception. I walked by the Affinova booth and bumped into their CMO, Jeffrey Henning. Although I keep up-to-date with Jeff via Twitter and his blog, we probably haven’t had much of a chance to connect in person for a couple of years. When I went to say hello with a handshake, Jeff caught me off guard with a ‘bro hug’ instead to the laughter of his colleagues.

The other moment was watching the Peabody ducks march in on a red carpet to their daily digs in the hotel fountain. A nice tradition at a nice venue!

Finally, what could we do to improve for the next conference we attend?

Alfred: We should make more active efforts to visit all the booths and network the other exhibitors.

Philippe: Next year, we’ll be better setup to give a demonstration of our software right in the booth. We’ll have more tangible case studies to share and I think that will excite our booth visitors even more.

Due to the size of the conference centre, the exhibit hall and meeting rooms were a bit spread out. Not everyone mingled or came by the exhibit hall. As exhibitors, we’d obviously like as much foot traffic as possible. Anything that can be done to get attendees to spend time in exhibit hall is appreciated.

Simon: Although Ramius has been developing online community software for some 13 years, Recollective is our first product specifically designed for the MR industry, and TMRE 2011 was the first trade conference at which we exhibited. So, it was valuable for the Ramius team to gain direct feedback from visitors to our booth. Next time, we will have some of the team participating in the sessions themselves so we can offer and bring back more insights.

By all accounts, The Market Research Event was a success! Networking with and learning from the other delegates, gaining insights on industry trends and themes, and probably the most important of all, introducing the market research world to Recollective were well worth the trip to the conference. I think it’s safe to say we’ll be back next year, and will be on the lookout for other conferences to attend in the mean time.

The Market Research Event 2011 #TMRE #MRX

The count down is on. Ramius’ TMRE team is gathering their supplies, finalizing their conference strategy and saying their good-byes. This Sunday Phillipe Dame, Simon Chen (@sylc) and Alfred Jay will be jetting off to sunny Orlando where they will be meeting up with the who’s who of the Market Research community.

While there we plan on checking out as many sessions as possible, but with so many interesting presenters it was hard to choose. Official TMRE tweeter Nick Zeckets (@nickonbiz) lists his Top Seven Session picks. While I think they all look great, we’ve also compiled a list of must see sessions of our own (this list only represents a fraction of what we plan on attending):

  • “Valuing Website Ratings versus Traditional Survey Ratings: Do They Tell the Same Story”, presented by Dr. D. Randall Brandt from Maritz Research is one session that we won’t be missing.
  • Tuesday at 10:45am we plan on learning “How to Maximize the Relationship Between Social Media and Market Research, Improve Worldwide Customer Communications and Conserve Resources”, presented by Texas Instruments.
  • Symrise USA and Socratic Technologies Inc. are discussing how to “Sniff Out Enhanced Panel Insights By Bridging Multiple Research Methodologies”.

Aside from the many sessions we’re excited about attending and posting blog recaps on, we’re also going to be tweeting up a storm. I strongly suggest you follow @ramiuscorp for up to the minute conference updates.

For us November 9th isn’t going to be just about the conference. We’re very excited about launching our new market research platform Recollective that day! If you’re lucky enough to be attending TMRE be sure to stop by booth 809 to talk to our team about this groundbreaking technology, and what it could mean for your research. Look for the big red signs and you’ll find us. We look forward to seeing everyone there.

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.