I was offline for two days this week, and during that time a lively debate had started on the term MROC (market research online community) and the definition of what an MROC is.

Jeffrey Henning from Vovici wrote a blog post in which he presented a segmentation that positions different types of communities in a matrix graphic, based on open versus closed and long term versus short term.

In our opinion, this is actually a useful segmentation of different types of online qualitative research techniques that could be categorized as different ways of doing social MR. However, each of these examples is on different parts of the spectrum of what a community is. From a research standpoint, community bonds strengthen as engagement from the research participants and commitment from the researcher increase. As a result, I’d put online focus groups and bulletin boards at the low end of the spectrum and MROCs at the very high end (when done right).

That’s as far as I’ll go in a blog entry on defining what a community is. Even "official" definitions of community offer a lot of latitude and reveal that that there are larger debates on this term that go beyond MR.

As for the debate on whether the term MROC is actually an accurate term: The applications for social technologies in MR will continue to evolve over time, and new definitions and research methods will emerge as result. But currently "MROC" seems to work well for most of our clients, and we think it still defines a way of doing research that’s different from other online qualitative methods. Instead of the debating semantics, we believe it’s more important that the discussion focus on how MR can own market research online communities and other forms of social market research internally — instead of within discreet marketing departments.

We’re interested to see what others in the space have to say on this hot topic.