Tamara Barber [Posted by Tamara Barber]

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For the Advertising Research Foundation, Communispace recently presented a webinar called: “Consumer–Centric Market Research: Understanding Real People in an Online Era”. It raises some very thought-provoking topics around the fight for quality in market research, which results in an industry that is slow to move on using new technologies. Here are some areas Communispace suggests market researchers need to get more comfortable with, as well as my summary of their arguments as it relates to communities:

  • Un-blinded research: Consumers expect transparency and authenticity when they deal with companies. In communities conversations become much more valuable and insightful when the members know who the brand is, and they are not distracted by trying to guess who is sponsoring the work.
  • Positive bias: Even though members in the community do feel more positively toward the brand over time, this doesn’t diminish the candor and insightfulness of the comments. And, the more clients know and develop trust with community members, the more comfortable they feel acting on community findings.
  • Trained respondents: Community members are less likely to be ‘professional respondents,’ since members are screened thoroughly and are participating in activities that wouldn’t be worthwhile in the long term for people who were just in it for the incentives. But what about members who start getting a lot of practice at things like co-creation exercises or projective work? Communispace feels that as members get more experienced in the feedback process, they give better feedback. They pointed to BrainJuicers ‘me to we’ research as one example of a community involved in the same types of exercises over time and providing very relevant results.
  • Group think: The days of pristine research are over, as we are all influenced by our peers in streaming content, social networking sites, ratings and reviews, etc. Properly moderated communities and exercises can reduce group think. But clients must also embrace the fact that members will be influenced by each other and see it as an opportunity to observe this dynamic. The company cited results from their Scholastic community in which both parents and teachers influenced a new flier design. They also worked with the makers of Allí who used their community to observe interactions between customer and non-customers, since the makers knew the product would be controversial.

Communispace is lucky enough to have had ten years to establish best practices in all of these areas, with the case studies to back them up. Is this something that the industry as a whole can get more comfortable with over time? I’d encourage you to listen to the full webinar here, and I welcome your thoughts.