August 31st, 2011

Think about it


As community managers we surround ourselves with people of differing ages, genders, backgrounds, attitudes and opinions in our communities. It’s part of what makes communities so interesting. We get to understand the differences and similarities between members, draw an overall consensus and then provide valuable insights to our clients.

Dealing with members with such varying backgrounds, opinions and outlooks can therefore be a difficult process. We aim to get to know people throughout the period that the community runs, and it is true that as we go along, you get a better understanding of what you can talk to some members about; how much you can ask them and importantly what topic of conversations are taboo or not. In the first weeks though it is worth being cautious as something that you may say flippantly without even thinking may actually be offensive to a member.

Think about real life, the first time you meet someone, it is pretty unlikely that you’ll be asking them who they voted for in the last election or how much they earn each year in the first few minutes of conversation. Sure these may be relevant questions at some point but think about how you would feel being asked this in the first week of a community or the first time you meet someone.

A good example of mine was a discussion which took place around Easter which aimed to investigate how much the meaning of Easter had diminished over time and the reasons for this. Whilst  most of us have an opinion on the matter, it was early in a community and had the potential to create divisions between those with differing opinions of a religious nature. Whilst healthy argument can be a good way to really delve into the true thoughts of members, fractures in the membership surrounding issues of religion or other sensitive topics can be very damaging.

Trust must be built up with members in order to get the best from them. It is built over time and you can’t expect someone to provide you the most insightful responses without their trust.

A tip that I now have in the back of my mind when talking to members in the community is that if you are any way concerned or worried about what you are writing and how it could be understood by a member then it is safer to not ask the question at all.

Sometimes it’s not the questions that we ask which are important in getting the best out of members but the ones that we don’t.

August 22nd, 2011

What sort of question is that?


What’s your most embarrassing moment that makes you squirm and that you’d hate to share? What, you don’t want to answer? You’re trying to evade my question? Why?

As a qual researcher we often have to find ways of going beyond direct questions. We have to find subtle ways to ‘tease’ out the information we need. This opens up the opportunity for ‘unearthing’ different responses than would be gained through simply asking a direct question.

As we all know, in ‘traditional’ qual there’s a number of strategies to do this, and some of them are about getting people to ‘do’ things rather than simply talking to them about the topic.  Projective techniques, sentence completion, brand party, product reviews, sampling, missions, are but a few.

With online research communities these same techniques and strategies apply. Sometimes we may adapt them, sometimes it’s a straight forward exchange from the ‘round table’ to the online environment.  Chatting with community members is not dissimilar to chatting with focus group attendees. Sometimes you need to go in softly, tip toe around, and see what is naturally volunteered. And in some cases you canjump straight in and get to the point.

I guess the reminder for us all is to be creative….don’t just ask.

Here are a couple of different examples to inspire you:

  • Ask members to create an ‘online dating’ profile for a brand.  What do they highlight to ‘attract’?  What do they gloss over and / or omit from the profile?
  • Imagine Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are trapped on a leaky boat.  There is no reception where they are and only  two lifejackets can be found,  - which would you hope survives?
August 11th, 2011

What if you threw a party and nobody came?


Building an Insights Community is a lot like throwing a party. Who will you invite? What’s the theme? Formal? Casual? What will you offer your guests? How will you make sure everyone mingles?

Anyone who has hosted a party knows that it takes A LOT of organisation, and even then there will be things out of your control. Insights Communities are just the same.

At this year’s AMSRS national conference, I’ll take a look at how we can throw a rocking Insights Community!

Hope to see you there!

August 5th, 2011

Try saying this to your partner…


“I think that you and I should get closer. I’d like to find out more about you – your thoughts, values, dreams and aspirations… I’ve designed this survey, could you please fill it out?”

This analogy illustrates the discrepancy between research objectives, and the methods used to reach those aims. The disconnect between purpose and process leaves some gaps to fill when it comes to talking to participants.

Insights Communities are astonishingly adept at bridging these gaps, with members frequently willing to share the most personal details about their lives. The online platform, has permitted such intimacy between researcher and community member…

Speaking to members in ‘natural environments’

Today conversing online is an ordinary form of communication, which participants are comfortable with. Familiar environments, equal more open disclosures

Spending A LOT of time with members

Moderators spend months or even years with the same participants, building a rapport that is unparalleled to more traditional research methods

Sharing a mutual understanding

The ‘kinship’ between moderator and member is reflected in participants’ readiness to genuinely ‘help you out’. For little, to no monetary reward, most members are often eager to go above and beyond what was initially asked of them at recruitment


Members invest in their relationship with the brand. They appreciate the sense of being heard, and contributing to decisions the brand makes. By the end of the community it is often the members who don’t want it to stop.

The marriage of purpose and process

Through the developed relationship between moderator and member, researchers gain a broader understanding into the lives of participants,  leading to richer insight. Insights Communities marry the research purpose and process – now that’s a relationship!