Understanding Online Communities
Written by: Derek.Sawchuk
8/6/2010 12:47 PM
I wanted to share a snippet of an article that was recently published in QRCA’s Views Magazine. I hope you enjoy.
Step One: Before you take on a community project, step back and think about what your client is trying to achieve within that strategic framework. They may think they want a community, but what they really need is another research method to fulfill their research goals. Defining a clear objective for the community is the first and most important step.
Some of the reasons to employ an online community include:
• Sharing ideas with customers
• Hearing and understanding how customers talk to each other
• Receiving unsolicited advice and feedback
• Understanding attitudes and awareness
• Exploring the customer’s mindset
• Having access to customer feedback on demand
After you have a good grasp on what you hope to accomplish, set specific goals for the project. Having a clear outline will help guide you through the design phase and platform selection process.
Step Two: Your next responsibility will be to choose a platform which the community can form around. Creating an environment that is comfortable for the members is essential for most projects - this means creating a professional appearance that matches the client’s corporate branding. An experienced community platform provider can help you create this seamlessly.
Additionally, when choosing a platform, it is to your advantage to select a provider that has analytics and participation reports which allow you assess the community’s wellbeing. Unlike a focus group, 100% participation from members is not a realistic expectation. Communities take time to build momentum and members have to be engaged in multiple ways, so you will want to measure the overall health of your community throughout your project. Metrics are the most convenient and easiest way to do this. Metric measurements can include new membership joining, page views, participation and response rates. These reports can also help you understand what engagement exercises are best received and most effective with your members.
Step Three: Recruiting methods for online communities can vary widely and may include multiple methods such as: website intercepts, reaching out to clients, signage, online advertising, and utilizing online panels to name a few. Try to think less about recruiting and more about creating a space where people who share a common interest can congregate. If the content is compelling and the members are properly engaged, a monetary incentive is not always necessary. Often sharing information and hearing what others have to say is enough to keep members coming back and contributing.
Step Four: Setting the stage for the expectations of members is essential for gaining the best participation levels. As with all online studies, it is important to clearly outline what is expected of the participants and what their incentive, monetary or not, will be. Tell them how often you will interact with them - daily, weekly, certain day of the week or time of the day - and tell them that you are going to respect their privacy. Bring down the boundaries and be transparent in order to gain their trust. Sharing information like the purpose or strategic objective of the community will help you gain members’ trust in the overall process. Armed with this information, members will tend to be more invested in the community and it will make contributing less intimidating for them.
Step Five: As the community begins to form and members begin to contribute, it is important to let the members know that you are listening. Embrace the ideas of collaboration and talk actively to them - figure out what makes them tick. Their needs are the foundation of the community and the best way to understand those needs is to listen and encourage conversation. When members contribute, acknowledge them and thank them. Also, remember to share what may be considered restricted information, such as new product design or future store locations to create a sense of exclusivity.
Saturday Mornings from the Smurfs to The Age of Persuasion
Written by: Derek.Sawchuk
7/29/2010 9:44 AM
I remember waking up as a child on Saturday mornings like it was yesterday.