There will always be a gap between what a consumer shares and how a researcher interprets it. This disparity is created by a cultural, generation and/or knowledge gap. These different gaps make it difficult for a researcher to put things into the right perspective. Here, community participants can help us out. ByWhat to expect? becoming our co-researcher, they can find more and new insights that would otherwise not have been captured. Customers feel empowered and honoured when they are asked to become co-researchers. There are many ways to collaborate with co-researchers. In this article, our experience with co-researchers is illustrated in three case studies from Campbell’s, Air France-KLM and Philips.
Co-researchers bring down the wallThe new buzzword in research industry is What would happen if we brought down these walls„collaboration‟. Today, 8 out of 10 consumers are and turned participants into researchers? Our recentwilling to collaborate with brands, 36% of case studies prove that community participantswhom prefer to do so in a branded research are not only perfectly capable of taking on thecommunity (Social Media Around The World, role as co-researchers, it’s also a way to close2012). In order for collaborations to be really cultural, generation and knowledge gaps.successful, it‟s key that there‟s an equal relationship These studies illustrate 3 ways of how communitybetween all parties and that they consider each members become co-researchers: by moderating,other as true partners. In Online Customer analysing and fine-tuning our conclusions.Communities, we consider the participants as equalpartners. We empower them to start their owndiscussions and enable them to share (un)solicitedfeedback. However, the roles are still split: we arethe researchers, they are the participants. For asuccessful collaboration, we need to challenge thesetraditional, distinct roles and examine theconvergence of the roles of a researcher andparticipant.
MROCs allow us to build an on-going connection with our participants. After the introductory period, we have gained their trust and participants know their way around in the community. Even members who were not familiar with communities before, learnParticipants as quickly how the community works, what the role of the community manager is and what is expected of‘co-moderators’ them. Without introducing the official role of a ‘co-moderator’ we already see some members starting to behave as moderators in the social corner (i.e. the room to talk off-topic and start new discussions). This already shows there‟s potential for empowering participants to be part of the research team and become actual co-moderators.
How to collaborate with co-moderatorsThere are various ways to introduce co-moderators into the community. We haveidentified two types of co-moderators: „by role‟ and „by mission‟
1 The role of the co-moderatorThe co-moderator task „by role‟ is endorsed as another moderator in the MROC of a specific room (i.e.social corner). The co-moderator is encouraged to start discussions by him/herself, moderate,summarise and report back to the moderator. In the community “Come Dine With Me” which we ranfor Campbell‟s, the co-moderator took his role very seriously and started completely new topics in theLounge. “I really enjoyed being a co-moderator, it really felt like I was playing an important role and that I was being heard. Thank you for asking me to do that, I would love to do it again” (Co-moderator in the “Come Dine With Me” community)
2 The mission of the co-moderatorThe co-moderator „by mission‟ tries to complete a secret assignment. Instead of being „responsible‟ forone room, the mission for this co-moderator is to join an already existing discussion andstimulate the conversation to keep the topic active. Afterwards, as in the case of the co-moderator“by role”, they summarise the discussion and report back to the moderator. In the community we ran forCampbell‟s, we asked participants to join the discussion “Your ideal restaurant experience” to find outextra insights in order to understand the total restaurant experience. For this role, the co-moderators werepositively surprised also “I accept the challenge and look forward to reporting back to you with my findings. Should be fun!” (Initial reaction from the co-moderator by „mission‟)
Working with a co-moderator „by mission‟ helps to keep the discussion relevant and dynamic. Plus, the questions are posed from a peer‟s point of view, which helps close the participant-vs.- researcher gap. Where co-mods by mission only ‘poke’ discussions on topic level, co-mods by role go one step further. They take over a whole forum (e.g. social corner) and collaborate with the members on a structural level, resulting in closer P2P relations and increasing the social glue of the community. Overall, co-moderatorship is perceived to be very rewarding both for the co-moderator and the other participants. Our experience with co- moderators already shows there are more opportunities for collaborating with participants asIn a brand new study with Campbell‟s, we observed co-researchers. In the past year, we‟ve done several studies to further explore the potential of co-that working with co-moderators increases the researchers in the analysis stage.general engagement of the MROC. Theconversation can be even more open as it is peer-to-peer, speaking the same language. Also the findings “How interesting that you used a couple of the other members to help you and ask usare summarized from a consumer point of view, not questions too. It’s a great idea, they knowthat of a researcher‟s, thus bringing another mind and where we’re coming from, and understand whata different perspective into the analysis process. Using we are talking about so it’s easier to talk to them”co-moderators also reaffirms to all participants that the (A „Come Dine With Me, Australia‟ MROCMROC is about listening, sharing and collaborating participant talking about a co-moderator)together. (Luke et al, 2012)
Participating in crowd interpretationNext to moderation, participants can also add value when they are involvedduring the analysis phase, also referred to as „crowd interpretation‟. Therationale behind crowd interpretation is that analysis of data is biased by aresearcher gaze. To get all potential interpretations and insights hidden in thedata, we should to include multiple perspectives.
Recently, we conducted an insightment community in cooperation with Air France-KLM where we wanted to detect new needs of transfer passengers. After an observational stage where each transfer passenger reported about theirInterpreting journey, we invited the community members to interpret each other‟s contributions. Previous research (Verhaeghe et all, 2011) taught us thatcommunity data consumers who are knowledgeable about the topic are most suitable for interpreting research results. The crowd interpretation was done in a game. In the first round, members gave their interpretation of the input of their peers. In the second round, the original contributor could rate the analysis. For each correct analysis, one received points. Consumers who were best at the analysis (highest number of points) won the game and got a special reward. When comparing the results of the researcher group with those of the participants, we can conclude that involving co-researchers leads to up to 21% of new insights, which would otherwise not have been reached. In other words: involving community participants in the analysis stage brings new insights to the table and helps researchers to close the gaps. Crowd interpretation of Gen Y community data .
Dry-running your presentation for consumersAnother way to involve participants in the tasks of the researcher is by asking them to fine-tuneyour conclusions, almost like a dry-run for the community participants instead of the company.This technique was used in a recent study we did for Philips.
Last year, we set up a 3-week insight shaping community with 50 Chinese consumers, together with Philips. Normally, we would work with a native moderator. Due to time constraints, we had to work with a non-native moderator and theFine-tune researcher’s community was run in English, while the fear existed we would lose out in terms of the fine nuances in Chinese culture and society. To avoid this caveatconclusions and increase positive feedback loops for enriched information generation, we used 10 of our participants as our co-researchers in a process of crowd interpretation. After our analysis of the community outtakes, these participants were presented our findings and were asked to challenge them. In performing the task of crowd interpretation, these participants were asked to explain our findings from the Chinese cultural perspective, illustrate our findings with their own personal examples as well as go beyond our first impressions. Working with co-researchers created truly unique insights that were key for Philips to find the right positioning in the Chinese market. We, as researchers and Philips‟ “Sleep Well” community with Chinese consumers marketers, would never have uncovered these insights from an online distance (Schillewaert et al, 2012). .
A new milestone in the researcher-participant relationshipBased on these 3 case studies, we have truly experienced the added value of co-researchers incommunities, learned how and when to appeal to them and developed a future outlook.
1 Co-researchers help you close cultural, contextual and knowledge gaps First of all co-researchers help you overcome a knowledge barrier. Community participants all share a strong interest in a brand or topic. The more niche the theme will be, the bigger the knowledge gap and the harder it will be to moderate specific discussions and draw the right conclusions. Secondly, co-researchers can help you close a contextual blind spot. For example, we also conducted crowd interpretation for a GenY community in cooperation with MTV. The researchers involved in this GenY community were not all GenY members. Using crowd interpretation with like-minded peers of the participants generating the data helped us to overcome this generation gap. Finally, the last case shows that co-researchers are crucial to overcome the cultural barrier. These co-researchers know their culture and go beyond the researcher‟s first impressions.
2 Co-researchers are the ultimate level of community engagement Another key learning of working with co-researchers is that it’s not for everybody. It‟s an extra challenge that participants need to be interested in and perceive as an exclusive reward. Therefore, we consider co-researchers as the ultimate level of method engagement, rewarding selected members to become an official co-owner of the community. 5 levels of creating gradual engagement in Online Customer Communities
3 Co-researchers are the future of our profession Participants are no longer used for exploitation for our research needs and have become our partners with whom we collaborate. When we put community participants into a different context such as a co-researcher, it does not replace the researcher. On the contrary, actually. It proves that we are building a long-lasting relationship with our participants; it‟s a synergy. And sharing the responsibility for the community with participants reaffirms this new relationship. We believe this is the next step in collaborating with community participants and is the way forward for our profession as market researchers.
Luke, M., Cappuccio, R., De Ruyck, T., Willems, A., & Grant, R. 2012. Come Dine With Me,Australia. Proceedings for AMSRS Conference 2012.De Ruyck, T. & Veris, E., 2011. Play, interpret together, play again and create a win-win-win,Schillewaert, N., De Ruyck, T., Troch, T. & Wijngaarden, J. van, 2012. When information ishard to get creating positive feedback loops through engagement in online researchcommunities,http://www.greenbookblog.org/2012/07/02/when-information-is-hard-to-get-creating-positive-feedback-loops-through-engagement-in-online-research-communities/Verhaeghe, A., Schillewaert, N., Van den Bergh, J., Ilustre, G. & Claes, P., 2011. Crowdinterpretation. Are participants the researchers of the future? Proceedings for Esomarcongress 2011.Verhaeghe, A., Hageman, C., Troch, T. & De Ruyck, T. (2012). Doing more with less.Proceedings for Esomar qualitative congress 2012.
The research team Anouk Willems Tom De Ruyck +31 10 742 10 35 +32 9 269 14 07 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com @AnoukW1 @tomderuyck http://www.linkedin.com/pub/anouk- http://www.linkedin.com/in/tomderuyck willems/3/490/974Annelies Verhaeghe Thomas Troch +32 9 269 1406 +32 9 269 12 26 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com @annaliezze @thomastroch http://be.linkedin.com/in/anneliesverhaeghe http://www.linkedin.com/in/thomastroch
Want to know more aboutresearch communities? Tom De Ruyck Head of Research Communities +32 9 269 14 07 firstname.lastname@example.org