At present I am writing a book for Wiley that will provide a guide on how to conduct online research, from panels to social media, from blog mining to e-ethnography. I expect the book to be available next year.
As I make progress I will be post occasional snippets and I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.
Note because it is a formal book thing, I need to point out that in posting snippets here I am retaining the copyright.
The first such snippet comes from one of the largest sections in the book, on online market research communities. These tend to come it two varieties, continuous and short term. This snippet looks at when a short term community might be appropriate.
Short Term Communities
A short term community typically runs from three days to three months, and will have between 30 and 500 members (although there are exceptions to these parameters).
Unlike continuous communities, short term communities are likely to be conducted as an alternative solution to a traditional, specific research problem. A small community, for example 30 to 80 members, is likely to be seen as a replacement for a qualitative project, a larger community might be positioned as an alternative to either a qualitative or quantitative project.
Examples of short term communities include:
- Developing a communications programme
- Evaluating the needs of a group of users or customers
- Testing a product or service, for example a website or financial service
- Understanding customers’ relationships with a product or service
A short term community is unlikely to develop a true sense of the community between the members and the brand, so short term communities will usually need to be incentivised. This is especially true if the time-line for the project is short and the workload for the members is relatively onerous. However, if the brand has a very close relationship with its customers, incentives might not be needed.
Short term communities are normally created and moderated by a research agency. This is because a short term project does not normally have the time and money to build an approach from scratch. There are speed and cost savings in using an agency which already has a solution and who only need to tailor it to the particular research project.
In a typical short term community, say two to three weeks in duration, the members of the community are expected to contribute to the community on a daily basis, but new tasks (e.g. discussion and polls) being set daily.
Because of the compressed time-line, a moderator plan is normally created for the whole project, at least in outline form. In many ways the moderator’s plan is like the discussion guide used in a depth or focus group. The moderator plan will be modified during the project, in responses to the inputs from the members.