Community panels are a different proposition to a traditional panel and harnesses some of the newer tools that have evolved as peoples use of the Internet has changed; it offers an organisation a completely different way of communicating and gathering feedback from customers and prospects. Many predict that it will be the way research will be carried out in the future. Certainly there are many benefits in creating one however, like the more traditional research panel care must be taken in its design and development if it is to yield a true return on investment.
Community panels – benefits
The most significant benefit of a research community is its ability to enable community members to interact and communicate on specific subjects between each other; instead of just having a one way dialogue with the researcher they are able to discuss, collaborate, and coerce with others. This organic growth of conversation, similar to that seen in a focus group though on a wider scale, can take your research in directions that you never expected and reveal insight that would be harder to extract from traditional methods. With the careful moderation and administration this can deliver wider opportunities and information.
Research community feedback is more continuous; the cycle of feedback is not restricted to when you want to ask a question but rather when a community member wants to be involved. This means a subject can remain open for a longer period of time enabling the conversation to evolve. Multiple discussion strands allow many conversations to be going on at any one time enabling feedback on the same subject but looking at it from different angles. The continuous feedback enables your customers to tell you what they want to buy, how they think improvements can be made or products they would like to see without direct questioning; all you need to do is listen (and steer).
Word of mouth
Word of mouth is rapidly becoming a strong influencing factor when it comes to people investing in a brand. Some people don’t trust the word of corporations and are blind to the glossy advertisements on TV or in print preferring instead to follow the advice of their peers; having champions of your brand within these circles give you a voice where otherwise you might not be heard.
As a company, being seen to deal with any detractors or negative views about your brand swiftly and effectively can actually turn a potential pinch point into a demonstration of how well you treat your customers. Whatever the touch point with your organisation customers like to feel involved and listened to; the more positive a community member feels the more investment they have with your brand and, as has been clearly shown in many situations before, loyalty and their keenness to spread the good word of your company are linked. Thus a research community can influence behaviour and the way a member engages within their own social circle and how they champion your brand.
As a versatile research platform a community can be linked to other survey methodologies enabling you to quantify ideas that are extracted from discussions. It can also spark new areas of research that previously may have been ignored or simply overlooked and enables a business to follow customer thoughts and really listen to customers rather than trying to steer them.
As with all research methodologies though there are pros and cons and like a research panel unless the right foundations are put in place in your community and the objectives fully understood before creating one it may not deliver its full return on investment.
Further information on foundations that underpin a research panel or community download our Custom Panel best practice guide.