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.