What’s On Tap For MROCs In 2011

It’s been a little over a year since I published my Wave on market research online community (MROC) vendors, and a new report of mine now takes a look at how the space has evolved, and where it’s going for 2011. (For clients, I encourage you take a look at the report: here) There are a number of step-changes that I outline, and here are a just few of the highlights:

Mobile: It’s no secret that consumers have tuned-in to mobile in a big way, and MROC platform vendors are now building in tools that will extend the community experience further into this channel. Mobile access to the community through mobile Web sites and apps is quickly becoming part of the table-stakes when it comes to the kinds of functionality that a platform should have. Consumers simply expect to be able to do most web-based activities on their phone as well. Look for more companies do what Gongos Research did and launch their own mobile apps specifically for MROCs.

Size: My opinions on the ideal size of a community have evolved based on my conversations with clients who really span the spectrum of what they consider a community to be. At the end of the day, end-user clients of communities want engagement and they want results. And I’ve seen enough case studies to confidently say that both can come from communities of varying sizes. No doubt that engagement will look different depending on size, but that’s not a bad or a good thing. The more important question is whether moderators can appropriately engage and listen to the community and accomplish client objectives given the size – and there is no pat answer for that. I’m seeing more vendors develop and track stronger measures of engagement than in the past.

Strategic value: Last, in the past few months, I’ve heard from quite a few community vendors that insights come out of various pockets within a client-side organization, and they see opportunity to move up the value chain by targeting buyers outside of the traditional market insights group. My response is: you’re right! MROCs are a very powerful tool for product and message development, co-creation, and ideation, and in some companies these activities might not seem like something under the purview of market insights. In fact, MROCs are an example of exactly the kinds of activities that market insights professionals should be involved in if they are to become more strategic in terms of the kinds of decisions their groups can support.

These are very high level thoughts of mine, and I’d love to hear some of yours.



MROC's in 2011

Tamara: Agree with your comments and like the one about measuring engagement. One platform I use has reports on how many posts each participant responded to, what percent of participants are participating, and similar metrics. On size, considering focus groups are ten or less people, a community does not have to be very big (<100) to generate great insights. Thanks!

Hi Bruce, thanks and agree

Hi Bruce, thanks and agree with your comments. With regard to size, I think what really matters is what the objectives are for the community. For example, is the intention to use is purely for qualitative insights on a specific group of people, or do you need a large enough community so that you can segment-out different consumers? As I said, though, 100% agree that a community doesn't have to be very big in order to get a lot of value out of it!

Size, style and purpose

Hi Tamara,

The issue of size is always going to be a talking point in relation to MROCs (or Insight Communities), as what we are seeing are clients starting off by wanting to get closer to their customers for the purpose of insight, but then opening out the activities to move into the innovation space. Despite their being a clear flow from one to the other, and with the right membership both can be achieved, this puts fresh demands on things like size and how you segment the community.

Our advice remains to start small, learn about your members and what motivates them to be part of the community - whether its for insight, innovation, co-creation etc - then grow with them to a level they are comfortable with and that the owner can comfortably manage. Let's not forget, insight communities should retain focus on qualitative conversation not quantitative data capture, so this does put some natural limits in place.

Dub, unlocking creative research

I agree with you, Stephen,

I agree with you, Stephen, that a focus on quantitative information is incredibly valuable for market research in online communities ; it's a new form of ethnography for studying consumer behavior. We've called some communities "super focus groups" because you get the benefits of peering into a consumer's head without creating an artificial atmosphere for people to share their ideas.

Looking forward to more of your work, Tamara.

Michelle @Synthesio

MROCs all that data

One challenge we have is what to do with all that data? Has anyone used text analysis programs to turn qualitative data into a form that can be used for business decision making? We have not yet set up a MROC but are considering it. I may be a different situation since my customers are Finance professionals working in large businesses rather than consumers.

Not so 'artificial'

Michelle, Thanks for your comment, though I'm not so sure about your idea of a research community for 'talking' and 'listening' as being deemed 'artificial'. Executed well, mrocs engender and inspire new relationships among participants that, after time, become very natural and unforced. So while I understand that 'listening' strategies allow you to tap into unforced dialogue, the candid nature of these conversations is also omni-present in mrocs.