June 12th, 2013

Sort of, dunno, nothin

By: Margie Lane, Research Director

Don’t you love the one word answers you get from teenagers when you ask them how their day at school was today.  I’ve learned with my daughter that it’s far more productive to wait until we have our quiet times together cooking, knitting, walking the dog, and let her raise issues that she wants to talk about.

It struck me moderating a group discussion recently that it’s exactly the same with participants.  Sure they may have more to say when I ask them a direct question than the average teen, but the real gems come when they are given the space and time to raise issues they have on their minds.

By spending time establishing rapport, giving participants the confidence to speak about issues that are top of mind and allowing the conversation to flow rather than moving on to the next scheduled task on the discussion guide, it is possible to uncover a whole host of issues that would have been buried by asking a rational question like ‘what’s important to you’.

And it’s the same in our online communities, we learn most about consumers real behaviour when we set the scene for open, free flowing conversations and can then more accurately project their future behaviour.

Take a look at this light-hearted take on the typical teenager and while you do, think about how much goes on in the life of a teenager beyond their monosyllabic replies and how we, as researchers, can access their reality.


February 8th, 2012

It’s all about timing


The holy grail of marketing is delivering the right message, to the right people at the right time. Without relevance marketing initiatives go to waste.

Market research, at its best, talks with consumers about things that are going on in their lives at that point in time. This is advantageous for two reasons. Firstly, for example, exploring consumer confidence the week an interest rate cut is announced leads to more accurate feedback, rather than rely solely on participant recall. Secondly, talking about topical issues or events actually increases engagement level with the research.

Insights communities are ideal for keeping research relevant to participants. The longitudinal nature of communities means that foreseeable events (e.g. Christmas) can be planned for. Furthermore, the flexible nature of communities allows researchers to respond to unexpected, topical issues that arise (think the announcement of the carbon tax).

When planning an online community, think about the timing of your topics, and how to maximise their relevance.

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!

July 11th, 2011

Get real!

get real
When I first started working with online communities I used to agonise over what I was going to talk to my members about to keep them engaged and interested. Trying to keep abreast of current events, latching on to anything interesting that might have happened out in the ‘big wide world’ to chat about.

But what I soon discovered (quite quickly, thankfully!) was that it was the more everyday musings and mundane snippets of my life that elicited the most response. The more I was just ‘me’ and shared my (sometimes very random) streams of consciousness the more community members responded. Blogs about peanut butter toast, accidentally coming to work with a stain on my shirt, feeling overwhelmed by laundry and the like had members laughing, commiserating and sharing similar stories both with me and each other. It’s the little things we all have in common that connect us more than we realise.

Not only has this made my job far easier, but highlights one of the main motivations for members participating in communities. And why we call them communities in the first place. We are social creatures, naturally interested in other people’s lives. Being a real person made me as much a member of the community as the ‘respondents’ I was ‘moderating’.

I let them into my life and get to see into their lives in return.

This is one of the key strengths of online communities in research. Members get comfortable, get real, and reveal truths about themselves. A genuine bond and sense of belonging develops. Something that I have never achieved in years of moderating focus groups.

As we are seeking to reveal deep consumer insights, that has to be a good thing!

May 12th, 2011

Why can’t Google go social?


When it comes to social networking, Google hasn’t had a very good run. Google Wave no longer exists, while Google Buzz got off on the wrong foot (with privacy invasion) when it first rolled out. In the next few weeks Google will launch its +1 button – which functions the same as Facebook’s ‘Like’ button. Given its track record, will Google ever be able to go social? If a company such as Google can’t build a successful online community, what hope is there for us market researchers?

Google obviously has the technological savvy to create these types of social networking platforms, but its core offer isn’t about being social, it’s about being useful. Google Search, Maps, News, Scholar. It’s about getting the user on and off a page as quickly as possible, with the information needed. Social media offers fun, entertainment and interaction – keeping the user on the platform for as long as possible.

Building an online community takes more than just providing a platform. Ignoring ‘the social’ impacts considerably on how your community grows – if it does at all. When establishing an insights community, keep in mind the lessons of Google. It’s just as much about interaction as it is information.