Maximising the insight you get from your online community

Some online communities are specifically built and managed as insight tools: online research communities. They are designed to help support the consumer or market research needs of the organisation behind the community. They may be public or private, but they are designed to deliver against specific research objectives and involve specific research exercises alongside the organic discussions and debates in the community.

Not all communities are online research communities, but all communities can be a useful source of insight. Just watching the conversations can be invaluable and bring real insight to any organisation, but there are ways that any community can get real insight value from the insight of your members. Over the last few weeks we’ve described eight ways of getting insight from online communities.

  • Profiling data:gathering the right information and then analysing the profiles of your community members can bring significant understanding of the people who join your community.
  • Focused discussions: focusing the discussions in your online community make it easier for people to join the debate and also let you concentrate on those issues that are of most interest to you and likely to bring greatest insights.
  • Learn their language: the language community members use is often overlooked, but provides a real insight into their lives and their perceptions on a product, market or issue.
  • Rating and voting: not everybody in an online community wants to begin or even add to discussions, but we can start to understand what they think and get insight from them by offering and than analysing their use of different ways of communicating, such as rating an idea or voting for a piece of content.
  • Photo uploads: photos offer a real insight into what people think and also allows us to gather opinions people who are not as comfortable expressing themselves in words. What people choose to upload photos of, and the reactions to them bring real insights into the community.
  • Photo activities:by targeting photo content into specific activities, we are able to maximise the benefit we get from each upload. Get community members to upload photos on a specific theme or in response to a specific question. Isolate the most interesting photos by using rating, ranking and comments to harness the opinions of community members.
  • Discussion events:as your community matures, patterns emerge in use. One of these will be that people come to the community at similar times each evening. You can take advantage of this by offering discussion events where people discuss a different issue at a certain time each week.
  • Quick polls:any community can use some simple insight tools, and quick polls are one of these. They are a great way to get instant and top-level quantitative insight from your community, but you must make sure you word the question (and potential answers) carefully if you are going ot use them for real insight.
Of course, a greater depth of insight can be gained from a community that is designed specifically to get insight from your customers and others, and that ties straight into your internal planning, research and strategic fields. For this you need an online research community.

by Matt Rhodes @mattrhodes

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