At Dub, we've recently been building a number of online research communities to capture discussions around some very private and sensitive issues. These insight and innovation-purposed communities have been commissioned by players in the pharmaceutical and health and well-being industries, who are growing increasingly switched-on to the opportunities online communities present. These include the ability to gather candid feedback and rich insight from end-users, of the sort they've never before experienced. In a sector where insight from sufferers and patients of such richness has traditionally been hard to come achieve, online research communities present a major shift.

Of course, when discussing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Over-active Bowel Disorder (OBD) and other serious personal conditions with real people, respecting their privacy and offering them relative online anonymity is tantamount to the success of the study. With this in mind, our approach allows project owners to assign tasks and questions to individuals by way of private one-on-one discussions, at the same time as supporting open group discussions. The former puts people at great ease, and when combined with the fact that respondents are participating from the comfort of their own home or place of choice, affords response nirvana.

Group discussions such as forums and blog also have a part to play in that they allow the community to connect, bond and share experiences with each other. Thus they reward respondents for their openness and honesty by allowing the connect with fellow sufferers, thus providing a level of support and comfort in knowing.

The recruitment of patients and sufferers is no easy task, so making them feel comfortable, respected and valued contributors within the community is essential. Our approach achieves this in a number of ways.

First we work tirelessly to design the tasks and activities that benefit from our own of research into the language and behaviours of the target audience. We see our role as party hosts, not entertainers, so it's important that we communicate with them in a language they recognise - theirs not ours.

Secondly we encourage Community Managers to share with them the insights that are being gleaned, so that they themselves are learning from the project and not just giving.

As our online research community work continues, so to does our amazement at the audience-types that are increasingly comfortable in sharing their lives online, be it in private or social environments. Our communities are an efficient and powerful way to connect, create learnings, gather feedback and support sufferers who wish to help others at the same time.

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