Talking to someone you have nothing in common with isn’t fun, and this is even more true when you are online. This is something you need to take to heart when you’re thinking of launching a community. Apart from coming up with a content plan, you need to take the time to clarify your objectives and participant pool.

The objectives of the community (i.e., what you want to learn from your community) and your participants (e.g., the people who will help you accomplish your objectives) are what we market research online community (MROC) experts call the “social glue” — they bond your community together to ensure it has a proper foundation to build upon.

The stronger the social glue, the better engagement you will have. It’s easy to start adding to your objectives and demographic requirements for participants, but it’s better to hold back. Sticking to one point of focus will get you the most in-depth and detailed results. A recent blog post by iModerate highlights this point for research objectives: “We tell many of our clients from the outset that they can either snorkel (cover more range, but stay shallow) or scuba dive (cover less, but go much deeper). If they want the richness that comes from thorough exploration, they need to follow our lead and we as researchers need to stay focused and diligent.” This also applies to the participants you select. Essentially, the broader the pool you have, the less in-depth your results will be because you have such a diverse group that you only can cover a wide variety of objectives superficially.

Depending on your objectives, you can decide on the length of time you want to engage with certain groups, and there are several vendors that offer to meet your long-term and short-term community needs. While you may want to engage with a core group of your consumers on a long-term basis, periodically learning about non-customers or unique target groups should be on your radar as well. Doing a mix of the two helps keep your objectives clear within your long-term community and optimizes your research with your other target groups effectively.

Please let me know your thoughts on this topic. We’ve recently launched a discussion on long-term versus short-term communities. We would love to hear your experiences with both!