Online communities have become mainstream in the research world, with many platforms available and more being developed all the time. According to a recent GRIT report on research trends, most client organizations and research agencies use them, and it’s easy to see why. Online communities enable you to gain insights through a variety of ways and can be very fun and engaging experiences for participants, clients and researchers.
While they are useful tools as standalone projects, the power of communities as a complementary piece is often overlooked. Just in the last year we have used online communities in many ways to support other research methods, such as…
To better illustrate customer segments:
- Purpose: To build personas of users of photo services from segments that were identified in an online survey.
- Benefit: Gave our client real stories and examples of people from each segment to further internalize and communicate about each group of consumers.
To complement ethnographies:
- Purpose: To learn about life as a teenager, how they communicate with their family and friends and what challenges they face.
- Benefit: Enabled us to observe how teens communicate with each other digitally and allowed them to share photos and social media posts over a period of time.
To make focus groups most valuable:
- Purpose: To allow participants to share their experiences using a product and respond to questions in advance of a focus group discussion.
- Benefit: Helped us get to know the focus group participants in order to maximize the productivity and insightfulness of the group discussions. The participants also started the group more comfortable because they already knew about us and the other participants.
We have found online communities to be a tremendously adaptable research method, and expect there to be even more opportunities for their use as the technology and capabilities of platforms continues to expand. We are constantly reviewing the advantages of these platforms as they evolve to ensure we use the right one for each project.