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The evolution of listeningThe qualitative heart of Insight Communities<br />Susan Abbott<br />The Worldwide Conference on ...
The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting  www.abbottresearch.com<br />2<br />Formatted for double si...
3<br />The evolution of listeningContents<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting  www.abbottr...
Foreword<br />Qualitative on qualitative<br />With the tremendous rising interest in Marketing Research Online Communities...
Acknowledgement of contributors<br />Acknowledgements<br />It was my great pleasure to speak to several genuine experts in...
MROC or Insight Community?  <br />In my conversation with Diane Hessan of Communispace, she expressed her hope that our in...
Executive Summary<br />An evolution of old methods and new communication technologies<br />Marketing Research Online Commu...
Communities have a continuing stream of activities that require planning for the interaction as well as the analysis.<br /...
The evolution of online Insight Communities<br />Marketing Research Online Communities bring together old methodologies wi...
10<br />Community defined: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest; an interacting population<br />The ...
MROCs build on existing approaches, including longitudinal research and anthropology<br />The use of communities for resea...
For business-to-business and executive scenarios, starting with a CAB model and adding more frequent online interactivity ...
13<br />Insight Communities draw on a growing number of offline and online methods<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 ...
14<br />Research methods formed and grew beside other new communication technologies<br />The Evolution of Listening © 201...
The more people connect using new technologies, the more natural the idea seems<br />There’s been a revolution in communic...
The need for greater insight is driving adoption of Insight Communities<br />Organizations at the top of their game in com...
17<br />Consider ICs on a spectrum of possibilities that you can mix and match to suit your needs<br />The Evolution of Li...
Customer Advisory Group
Customer Advisory Board</li></ul>Terms:<br /><ul><li>Bulletin board
Discussion forum
Immersive / blogs</li></ul>Terms:<br /><ul><li>Marketing Research Online Community (MROC)
Insight Community (IC)</li></ul>Terms:<br /><ul><li>Customer lab
Customer workshop</li></ul>Terms:<br /><ul><li>Online focus groups
Online meetings
Webcam groups</li></ul>A few hours or a day<br /><ul><li>internal project  team interacts directly with individual customers
Rough ideas are refined co-creatively
Customers may only participate once, even if multiple sessions are held</li></ul>Sophisticated platforms <br /><ul><li>Ric...
Some platforms support participant video uploads</li></ul>Three-day project is current  norm with many variations<br /><ul...
Real world homework and projects possible
Full control over what respondents see
Ability to use multi-media stimuli
In-depth responses, considered responses</li></ul>Webcam group<br /><ul><li>See and hear in real time
Small group or 1:1</li></ul>Can incorporate many of the methods over a period of time<br />Best with high-involvement cate...
Between meeting activities can include surveys, working groups talking by phone, etc.
Composition respects differences in seniority, discipline and decision authority
Members typically participate for 1 – 3 years
Compensation not typical</li></ul>Web + conference call<br /><ul><li>Visual presentation plus voice
Markup tools
Small group of 1:1</li></ul>Text chat<br /><ul><li>Up to 20-25 respondents
High-level spontaneous reactions</li></li></ul><li>In the beginning, a bold client was seeking innovation: “never underest...
How Insight Communities are different than public communities<br />MROCs are managed communities, and as such, have differ...
An MROC or Insight Community, is a community created specifically to gather insights<br />Insight Communities differ in im...
Members in managed communities make a commitment to participate<br />Members in communities make a commitment to participa...
Social media useful for finding trends, possible topics, but not a substitute for Insight Community<br />The contributors ...
The moderator’s role: scripting interaction<br />Community platforms are designed using psychological and sociological pri...
Community platforms are designed using psychological and sociological principles to enhance engagement<br />A variety of t...
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MROCs - The Evolution of Listening

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I interviewed the experts in MROCs -- here's what I learned from them, and presented to a professional conference in Prague in 2010.

This is the detailed paper that accompanied the presentation.

Published in: Business

Transcript of "MROCs - The Evolution of Listening"

  1. 1. The evolution of listeningThe qualitative heart of Insight Communities<br />Susan Abbott<br />The Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research<br />May 19-21, 2010<br />Prague<br />Detailed paper for conference participants<br />Modified June 2010 <br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />1<br />
  2. 2. The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />2<br />Formatted for double sided printing<br />Left hand binding<br />
  3. 3. 3<br />The evolution of listeningContents<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />Words in italics are quotes from the individual contributors interviewed, taken either from my notes, from e-mails, or from video clips<br />
  4. 4. Foreword<br />Qualitative on qualitative<br />With the tremendous rising interest in Marketing Research Online Communities, both clients and qualitative research practitioners are working to understand how best to use this approach. <br />What is important to making these communities work?<br />How are MROC communities the same or different from the other communities one can easily find online on thousands of topics?<br />Where do communities fit among the other tools of qualitative insight – or do they replace them?<br />Is this all about the technology, or is there still a role for an analytical human brain in the creation of value from insights?<br />What does the future hold and how do we move forward now?<br />I brought the perspective of a qualitative researcher to this task, setting out to find and then deconstruct expert testimony, put it in context, and draw out findings. <br />Like many of you reading this, my own experience in Marketing Research Online Communities largely relates to shorter duration projects with smaller numbers. <br />I have certainly seen community begin to develop in online discussion forum projects, but these run mere days compared to the extended longitudinal work that is central to the community concept. I have experienced the joys of these connections, but also the burden or intense work required to maintain them, even for short periods. I wondered how one would do this over many months. <br />And I wondered how the work of the qualitative profession, comprised largely of individuals working in small enterprises, would evolve to meet this trend. <br />All of these thoughts and many more accompanied me as I interviewed some of the most experienced individuals in this methodology, which is still evolving.<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />4<br />
  5. 5. Acknowledgement of contributors<br />Acknowledgements<br />It was my great pleasure to speak to several genuine experts in this emerging area, who gave generously of their time and knowledge. Few people can claim years of experience in this emerging area, but those that I spoke with can. <br />Please join me in thanking them for sharing their learning with our professional community.<br />I hope I have communicated their ideas accurately, particularly where I used verbatims drawn from my interview notes, done only to ensure that these pioneers get the recognition they deserve. If I have missed the mark on any of this, I apologize. <br />The opinions expressed here are entirely mine, and do not necessarily represent the views of the contributors. <br />Susan Abbott<br />May 2010<br />Paper modified June 2010<br />Contributors<br />Manila Austin, Director of Research, Communispace<br />Kathy Fitzpatrick, Director, QualVu<br />Matt Foley, PluggedIn Co<br />Diane Hessan, President + CEO, Communispace<br />Jim Longo, Vice-President, Itracks<br />Dana Slaughter, Head Honcho, Slaughter Branding<br />Liz Van Patten, Principal, Van Patten Research<br />Julie Wittes Schlack, Senior Vice President, Innovation, Communispace<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />5<br />
  6. 6. MROC or Insight Community? <br />In my conversation with Diane Hessan of Communispace, she expressed her hope that our industry would not have to live with the label of MROC and could instead adopt the friendlier one of Insight Community. Jim Longo of Itracks also raised this point.<br />Time will tell which way things go. However, I note that we have been unable to find a friendlier word than asynchronous to capture the nature of the online discussion forum aka bulletin board aka discussion board. So I am not optimistic.<br />For the purposes of this paper, I use the acronym MROC for Marketing Research Online Community, the acronym IC for Insight Community, and the simple word community, somewhat interchangeably. <br />If referring to something other than this, I will make that clear. <br />We call them Insight Communities because I think MROC sounds like the Flintstones. <br />Diane Hessan, Communispace<br />Some companies are starting a movement away from calling these MR Communities MROCs. Itracks is one of those companies. We believe Insight Communities is more appropriate.<br />Jim Longo, Itracks<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />6<br />
  7. 7. Executive Summary<br />An evolution of old methods and new communication technologies<br />Marketing Research Online Communities (MROCs or Insight Communities) bring together old methodologies with new technologies to create a new form. The technology that enables Insight Communities lives in a context for research participants that includes the development of many new communication technologies such as social media. The Insight Community is one tool on a spectrum of tools that can be selected to meet client needs.<br />Managed communities have key differences from public communities<br />Insight Communities are managed communities, and as such, have different characteristics from the many open public communities that millions of people take part in, some of which are sponsored Marketplace Communities. <br />Communities that are being managed for insights – even large ones – are smaller but more active than<br />public communities.<br />Insight Community activity is purposeful and goal oriented, members have been carefully recruited and screened, and it is an environment where trust and participation are carefully nurtured. <br />Moderator roles crucial, but also evolving<br />Community platforms are designed using psychological and sociological principles to enable, enhance and encourage engagement. However, the technology can not ignite member engagement without the moderator. <br />The moderator’s role can be likened to creating a script for interaction among the participants. The script manages the ebb and flow of activities, keeps people engaged, but also ensures that projects meet the insight objectives at their core. <br />New models of work and role specialization are evolving to accommodate the challenge of continuous dialogue and the large amount of data communities generate. <br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />7<br />
  8. 8. Communities have a continuing stream of activities that require planning for the interaction as well as the analysis.<br />Future directions<br />Contributors see mobile technologies as a natural evolution and enhancement to community activities, including SMS messaging and mobile video. However the new methods are not a replacement for current methods, and will no more eliminate the focus group or interview than television eliminated radio.<br />Considerations for clients<br />Client organizations should embark on community building only when they have a real need for regular and repeated engagement with a group of consumers. The resource commitment is significant, both in terms of staff time and third party expense. <br />Although increased brand affinity among community members is a common side effect, an Insight Community is not a Marketplace Community, and creating brand advocates is not a research objective. <br />Organizations must also be prepared to engage in authentic feedback with the community. <br />Considerations for researchers<br />The skills of qualitative researchers translate well to the community environment, and more easily once they have had online qualitative experience. <br />Qualitative researchers who want to enter this type of work but keep their status as an independent researcher should consider partnering with other researchers, and with some platform providers who are willing to partner.<br />Summary<br />The Insight Community is now a proven tool for clients to generate a continuing stream of insights and we are likely to see this methodology become more widely adopted. However, the method is unlikely to displace other forms of qualitative insight gathering. Instead, we are likely to see more multi-method or bricolage projects that utilize multiple new communication technologies as needed for either longitudinal or ad-hoc research.<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />8<br />
  9. 9. The evolution of online Insight Communities<br />Marketing Research Online Communities bring together old methodologies with new technologies to create a new form. The technology that enables MROCs lives in a context for research participants that includes the development of many new communication technologies such as social media. The Insight Community is one tool on a spectrum of tools that can be selected to meet client needs. As with all qualitative, regardless of the number of participants, we must “never underestimate the power of n=1.”†<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />† Tom Brailsford of Hallmark, to Diane Hessan of Communispace<br />9<br />1<br />
  10. 10. 10<br />Community defined: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest; an interacting population<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  11. 11. MROCs build on existing approaches, including longitudinal research and anthropology<br />The use of communities for research has a long history, in multiple disciplines.<br />Anthropology started community immersion<br />Anthropologists were the first profession to codify the practice of being inside a community over a longer period to observe the culture and develop deep insights. The methods of anthropology, if not always the interpretive approach have been widely adopted by marketing researchers. The ethnographic interview is now a staple in the researcher toolkit.<br />Longitudinal studies are not new<br />Longitudinal studies have been done in many branches of research, both academic and commercial. These have included the use of diaries, questionnaires and interviews. Many of the richest multi-method projects occurred in the context of academic research, and documentary film, in part because the costs of running these projects on a commercial basis would be prohibitive. And few clients could wait that long for insights.<br />11<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />The academic tradition of longitudinal research does not generally seek to create community within a study of individuals – if such a connection happens, it’s because the community is already present, or it occurs as a side-effect of the project.<br />Deliberate creation of community interaction<br />MROCs, however, deliberately seek to create community interactions among a group of people with a common characteristic, for research purposes.<br />The Up series is a longitudinal documentary of the lives of 14 people starting at age seven. There are now seven installments, filmed every seven years.<br />
  12. 12. For business-to-business and executive scenarios, starting with a CAB model and adding more frequent online interactivity may make be the most effective strategy. <br />Contributors noted that senior business people will participate in Insight Communities, however they have less time to contribute. Kathy Fitzpatrick of QualVu indicated that CEOs, although difficult to recruit, often enjoy their participation and the opportunity to interact with peers. This is also a motivator for CABs.<br />Customer Advisory Boards are the offline equivalent of the Insight Community<br />Businesses have used ongoing Customer Advisory Boards (CAB) as a form of longitudinal research, largely in the business-to-business domain. <br />More commonly these are panels primarily used for survey purposes (e.g. Globe and Mail newspaper panel, Aeroplan loyalty program customer panel) But the true CAB offers direct interaction opportunities over longer periods.<br />Advisory boards have been advocated as a potentially strong source of ideas for innovation. In his 2007 book Innovation Games, Luke Hohmann notes that companies such as QualComm, Aladdin Knowledge Systems, Emerson Climate Technologies, Wyse Technologies, and Autodesk have CABs with varying monikers. <br />For those who are seeking primarily to engage senior executives in helping an organization guide strategic direction, the CAB model may be a useful place to start. <br />Many of the best practices suggested by those who have managed CABs also readily apply to MROCs. And CABs are starting to move online. <br />Definition<br />A Customer Advisory Board (CAB), also known as a Customer Advisory Council or Group,  involves engaging a group of existing customers and senior executives on a regular basis to discuss industry trends, business priorities and strategic direction for the benefit of all.<br />Source: CustomerAdvisoryBoard.org<br />This site offers significant resources for free, and even more with a membership fee.<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />12<br />
  13. 13. 13<br />Insight Communities draw on a growing number of offline and online methods<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />Newest additions<br />Online methods<br />Offline methods<br />Researchers have quickly adopted new technologies for interaction and insight. As the next page shows, these developments did not happen in isolation<br />Approximate duration of participant involvement<br />
  14. 14. 14<br />Research methods formed and grew beside other new communication technologies<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  15. 15. The more people connect using new technologies, the more natural the idea seems<br />There’s been a revolution in communication technology, and online research communities leverage this technology. The technology on its own would not work nearly as well if people were not becoming used to many other forms of technology enabled communication. The development of MROCs does not stand apart from the social changes that are driving this interest in connecting in new ways.<br />Yahoo Groups, one of the first online communities, launched in 1998. It continues to be a popular source for hosting a free community, and in many ways set the model for how many public forums still look today. <br />Any hobbyist or interest group can easily launch their own free community on Ning (launched in 2005), or for a modest sum, launch a more controlled effort using tools such as Meetup (founded 2002).<br />There are hundreds of similar tools for the average person, and a growing number of sophisticated tools available for use by larger organizations. <br />Insight Communities have taken bits and pieces from different methodologies and platforms to create something entirely new. Often Insight Communities will include forums, blogs and profile pages similar to more mainstream social media communities. From a marketing research standpoint they have borrowed more from online bulletin boards than any other methodology and that is why I believe that qualitative practitioners are best suited to manage them. <br />Jim Longo, Itracks<br />15<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  16. 16. The need for greater insight is driving adoption of Insight Communities<br />Organizations at the top of their game in competitive industries are hungry for insights. They are launching more insight and innovation programs, and sampling from a bigger menu of qualitative insight gathering tools. <br />A spectrum of choices<br />Marketing Research Online Communities do not replace the current tools. They exist on a spectrum of choices for finding insight, finding inspiration, and seeing with fresh eyes.<br />The chart on the next slide shows a high-level comparison of some of the ways an organization today might seek this kind of deep insight, in addition to other well-established methods such as focus groups, in-depth interviews, and ethnographic interviews.<br />Poised for growth<br />Adoption curves for new approaches often follow an exponential pattern, starting slow, then rapidly gaining adherents. Insight Communities appear poised for significant growth in the same fashion.<br />People are sick of having data and no insight. Companies are not dying for data. What they want is to hear something they have never heard before. They want to reframe the way they think about the world. They want inspiration.<br />Diane Hessan, Communispace<br />16<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  17. 17. 17<br />Consider ICs on a spectrum of possibilities that you can mix and match to suit your needs<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />Longer periods of 3 months to years<br />Online research tools, real time<br />Online research tools, asynchronous<br />Face to Face, longer term, 1 – 3 years<br />Face to Face, short term<br />Terms:<br /><ul><li>Customer Advisory Panel
  18. 18. Customer Advisory Group
  19. 19. Customer Advisory Board</li></ul>Terms:<br /><ul><li>Bulletin board
  20. 20. Discussion forum
  21. 21. Immersive / blogs</li></ul>Terms:<br /><ul><li>Marketing Research Online Community (MROC)
  22. 22. Insight Community (IC)</li></ul>Terms:<br /><ul><li>Customer lab
  23. 23. Customer workshop</li></ul>Terms:<br /><ul><li>Online focus groups
  24. 24. Online meetings
  25. 25. Webcam groups</li></ul>A few hours or a day<br /><ul><li>internal project team interacts directly with individual customers
  26. 26. Rough ideas are refined co-creatively
  27. 27. Customers may only participate once, even if multiple sessions are held</li></ul>Sophisticated platforms <br /><ul><li>Rich media, multi-media
  28. 28. Some platforms support participant video uploads</li></ul>Three-day project is current norm with many variations<br /><ul><li>Respondents log in at their convenience and type thoughts
  29. 29. Real world homework and projects possible
  30. 30. Full control over what respondents see
  31. 31. Ability to use multi-media stimuli
  32. 32. In-depth responses, considered responses</li></ul>Webcam group<br /><ul><li>See and hear in real time
  33. 33. Small group or 1:1</li></ul>Can incorporate many of the methods over a period of time<br />Best with high-involvement categories OR multi-product conglomerates that can generate many projects<br />Expectation of weekly activities, some initiated by participants<br />Ongoing involvement<br /><ul><li>Meets quarterly for one or two days, often in appealing location
  34. 34. Between meeting activities can include surveys, working groups talking by phone, etc.
  35. 35. Composition respects differences in seniority, discipline and decision authority
  36. 36. Members typically participate for 1 – 3 years
  37. 37. Compensation not typical</li></ul>Web + conference call<br /><ul><li>Visual presentation plus voice
  38. 38. Markup tools
  39. 39. Small group of 1:1</li></ul>Text chat<br /><ul><li>Up to 20-25 respondents
  40. 40. High-level spontaneous reactions</li></li></ul><li>In the beginning, a bold client was seeking innovation: “never underestimate the power of n=1”<br />When Communispace launched in 1999, they were heading in a different direction than the community model they have been pursuing for some time. <br />Diane Hessan is quick to credit client Tom Brailsford of Hallmark with the key idea: to form a community of consumers that would help Hallmark find the path for future growth. The first real community project, launched in November 2000, was the Hallmark Idea Exchange. It was launched with 150 moms and kids. <br />The project was extremely successful, and led to a shift of focus for Communispace.<br />Initial communities were built with 150 people, based on the theory of Robin Dunbar – “Dunbar’s Number” – of the natural limit to the number of people one can maintain a social relationship with. This number was popularized in The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. <br />I recently called Tom [Brailsford, of Hallmark] to ask him, 10 years later, what have you learned. He is a guy with a PhD in statistics. Here’s what he told me: “Never underestimate the power of N=1.”<br />Diane Hessan, Communispace<br />Tom Brailsford was interviewed by Businessweek* in July 2001 about the new approach: <br />Everyone wants to know about the ROI [return on investment] of the community, how many products, the millions of dollars generated. The fact is, we've only had it up six months. No one has a product-development cycle that's that fast. … How much has it made in six months? Nothing. Does that mean we shouldn't have done it? I don't think so. <br />We're trying to establish a dialogue with the marketplace.... We have an unprecedented view into their lives. <br />18<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />* Online Extra: Q&A with Hallmark's Tom Brailsford, Businessweek E.biz, July 9, 2001<br />
  41. 41. How Insight Communities are different than public communities<br />MROCs are managed communities, and as such, have different characteristics from the many open public communities that millions of people take part in. Managed communities – even large ones – are smaller but more active. Insight Community activity is purposeful and goal oriented, members have been carefully recruited and screened, and it is an environment where trust and participation is carefully nurtured. <br />19<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />2<br />
  42. 42. An MROC or Insight Community, is a community created specifically to gather insights<br />Insight Communities differ in important ways from self-generated social network communities.<br />Some key characteristics of Insight Communities:<br />Purposeful<br />Focused<br />Directed<br />Exclusive<br />Private<br />Community members know that they have been recruited and screened, and they know that the community is private and managed. All of this aids in the development of trust, and thus the development of community. <br />Crucially for research purposes, the demographic profile of the members is known and confirmed through screening. Public communities offer little assurance that people represent their situation accurately. <br />There is a difference in the nature of the conversations that happen in managed communities.<br />A look at the sizeable Mercedes-Benz owner community reveals some of these differences. The community has a huge number of members, but few participate. This is typical of public forums. Topics point to possibilities and trends, problems and innovative workarounds – but do not provide deep insight at the level qualitative research can provide.<br />These public communities – as well as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media – provide an excellent starting point for topics of interest.<br />Partial screen-shot of one section of Mercedes-Benz owner community<br />20<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  43. 43. Members in managed communities make a commitment to participate<br />Members in communities make a commitment to participate over the duration of the community, whether short or long term.<br />In addition, there are many incentives that encourage participation.<br />Multiple short-term activities providing fresh sources of engagement at regular intervals<br />Intrinsic motivation of making a genuine contribution to something important <br />The simple joy of creating, sharing, learning with others<br />Points programs and structural incentives to participate<br />Active moderation<br />The many incentives to participate mean that these communities are very rich interactive environments for members. Members who demonstrate problem behavior are managed and removed if necessary; such individuals tend to reduce participation in public communities (see Trolls sidebar).<br />It’s not about the technology platform. Thinking, “if you build it they will come” is wrong. <br />A useful distinction with web mining is … What you learn with web mining and brand monitoring is awareness of issues and topics, general sentiment around a topic or a brand. This is passive listening versus active listening. You can learn from spontaneous conversations, but you can also use those conversations as a guide. Buzz mining is great at the what and less great at the why. The other challenge is, you don’t know who is talking. The two are complementary offerings – you need both. <br />Julie Wittes Schlack, Communispace<br />Trolls<br />Problem behavior in public forums is so common that slang exists to describe it. Trolls is a derogative term that refers to individuals who post off-topic, inflammatory or hurtful comments on public forums. DNFTT is short for Do Not Feed The Trolls, the recommended strategy for discouraging such behavior by ignoring it.<br />21<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  44. 44. Social media useful for finding trends, possible topics, but not a substitute for Insight Community<br />The contributors to this study see major benefits to scanning and monitoring the public communities and social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and many others. <br />The communities themselves have many of the features of social media, and community members will find familiar features.<br />Member profiles<br />Members can launch their own discussions, surveys and activities<br />Multiple possibilities for engagement beyond bulletin boards<br />Market research will continue to creep into all online communities that show value, whether they are private or not. The information being discussed in this space is too valuable. Look for more social media tracking start-ups (like Radian6) in addition to an increase in private communities. <br />Jim Longo, Itracks<br />Just scouring Twitter lacks context. Who are you really talking to? You can find trends and topics you might want to explore.<br />Matt Foley, PluggedIn Co<br />22<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  45. 45. The moderator’s role: scripting interaction<br />Community platforms are designed using psychological and sociological principles to enable, enhance and encourage engagement. However, the technology cannot ignite member engagement without the moderator. New models of work and role specialization are evolving to accommodate the challenge of continuous dialogue and the large amount of data communities generate. <br />Communities have a continuing stream of activities that require planning for the interaction as well as the analysis. <br />23<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />3<br />
  46. 46. Community platforms are designed using psychological and sociological principles to enhance engagement<br />A variety of tools are in use to promote engagement, depending on the platform used:<br />Points systems reward participation in activities and also make participation levels visible<br />Incentives – based on points earned for activities, but also awarded by the researchers on an ad hoc basis<br />Follow-up tools that enable moderators to probe individual participants<br />Ability to be anonymous if desired (rarely used, according to Communispace, but empowering. It reminds people they are choosing to participate.)<br />Ability of members to launch their own activities in addition to the activities launched by the research team<br />Community-building activities that do not have direct research objectives but support engagement<br />One of the challenges is sustaining momentum and involvement over time. A real key to that is variety. Change the topic from week to week and session to session, change the activities and exercises. One week you might have a shopping assignment. Another week you might do laddering. Another week you might have people keep a diary. Just keep changing things all the time to sustain interest.<br />Liz Van Patten, Van Patten Research<br />Some people think that if you invite people, they are going to just naturally start talking. But that just is never the case. Even if they have a very strong affinity, or shared background, or passion, you still need somebody in there actively, actively facilitating the conversation.<br />Matt Foley, PluggedIn Co.<br />24<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  47. 47. New models for how to work are starting to appear, all involving a team aspect<br />As researchers developed more experience managing these ongoing communities, different roles began to emerge. <br />We already have role specialization in qualitative<br />We already have some role specialization in qualitative research, with recruiters, facility managers, facility hosting staff, project managers, note-takers and so on. The emergence of these specialized support roles served to reduce the burden on the researcher leaving them focused on design, moderating, interpretation and communication of results. In some organizations, design, moderation and analysis are further divided, or handled as a team activity, to allow individuals to leverage their strengths. <br />Role specialization in communities<br />Similar changes are occurring in the world of communities. Some of the existing roles are still in place (e.g. recruiters), but other people besides the qualitative researcher are involved in actually communicating with the community members. <br />The PluggedIn model: 3 key community roles<br />A designer guides the research design and translates the client’s objectives into activities. Activities might be discussions, polls, diary exercises, etc. The skill level is the same as developing a discussion guide for a focus group. This work also requires knowledge of how to adapt activities for the online environment.<br />A moderator posts and launches the activities in the community, does the follow-up in terms of managing the activity, probing responses, etc. This is the “That’s interesting, can you expand on that” role, just like moderating in other environments.<br />A community manager builds a sense of excitement, builds rapport, makes sure people are participating, having a good time, not having any problems. They manage invitations and incentives, and keep things moving. <br />In a short-duration online project such as a three-day discussion forum, most of this work is done by one person. <br />25<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  48. 48. Manage the density and intensity of the work with a research plan and a moderating team<br />A community’s activities need to be managed with a clear project plan and timelines. <br />Plan six to 12 months ahead<br />Dana Slaughter recommends developing a research calendar for at least the first six months, and ideally the first year, or even the duration of the community. The calendar helps to clarify the workload and enable appropriate staffing. <br />From the researcher’s perspective, this enables the researcher to avoid being 100 percent dedicated to a project unless they want to be. <br />All of the contributing experts recommend varying the level of effort and intensity of activities in the community, so some periods have more intense activities than others.<br />Liz Van Patten also suggests having a backup plan of content to use with the community if something falls behind schedule, such as a client business unit not being ready with content. <br />Many of the MROCs I work in will have at least a weekly group forum discussion among all members to keep them engaged, and pepper in in-depth studies anywhere from four to six times a year (although one community I work in has almost 40 in-depth studies per year). <br />There needs to be a moderator to oversee weekly group forum discussions on the community website. Weekly, this can take four to eight hours to moderate, analyze, and summarize for one discussion. For in-depth studies, it might take 25 to 100 percent of another moderator, or multiple moderators to handle multiple in-depth studies simultaneously within a community. <br />Dana Slaughter, Slaughter Branding<br />26<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  49. 49. Honor the pre-existing culture of the group: the culture of sharing, social glue holds community together<br />In general consumer groups, a community can be relatively diverse, within limits.<br />Matt Foley of PluggedIn provided a handy rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t put the people together in a focus group, you shouldn’t put them together in a community.<br />Some groups more inclined to share<br />Some groups and individuals are more inclined to share than others. This is an important consideration when looking at professional or business-oriented projects. If the group would not share in a face-to-face environment, the online environment will not easily elicit this behavior.<br />If there is uncertainty around this element, some advance work with a short-term qualitative project could be beneficial. <br />You need an indigenous culture of sharing in the community before you start. This is important in B2B and professional communities. IT for example, has an established culture of sharing, and of sharing online. Medical, scientific and technical groups all have this. And they want the brands they depend on to do better. They are really invested. They may log in less often than consumers, but they are task focused and keep coming back. <br />Primary care practitioners are all small business people. That is peripheral to the client company, but it is part of the social glue that holds the community together. <br />You can have multiple segments, but you can’t mix up people that wouldn’t consider themselves peers. E.g. cannot have surgical specialties with general practitioners. Cannot have general practitioners with pharmacists and nurses. <br />Julie Wittes Schlack, Communispace<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />27<br />
  50. 50. The ideal size for a community ranges from 50 to 500<br />Practitioners have very different views on the ideal size for a community, based on their experience with different sizes.<br />The Communispace model is for 300 to 400 participants. Note that members can set up their own sub-groups within the larger community<br />The PluggedIn model ranges from 50 for shorter term more intense projects to 150 for longer term communities<br />Clearly, a variety of approaches can work. Cost of recruiting may also be a factor. <br />Part of what influences size decisions are expected participation rates. Julie Wittes Schlack indicated their average participation rates are over 50 percent in a month. This compares to un-moderated public communities where 90 percent of participants are lurkers, not posters. <br />For members, there are a variety of activities available over a period of time, which change on a regular schedule. Every member does not participate in every activity. <br />Participant time commitment<br />Participants in an online discussion forum might be asked for two hours over the course of a week, or something of similar intensity.<br />In a community, the time commitments are smaller, and spread out over a longer period. For a longer term community, Matt Foley suggests that 15 to 20 minutes a week is an appropriate commitment. A shorter community, held over a couple of months, might require a more intense commitment, perhaps 30 to 45 minutes a week.<br />Moderators of other online qualitative will be well acquainted with participants becoming engaged, and offering up significantly more time than they are asked to commit. This phenomenon is also very true in the community environment.<br />28<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  51. 51. Communities don’t moderate themselves: the moderator is a scriptwriter for the interaction<br />Insight Communities rely on the moderator for the same things as in other forms of qualitative research. The key difference is that all communication is asynchronous, and the majority is in the form of text.<br />Regardless of how the roles are divided, the researcher or team creates the environment of trust, and sets the tone and initial norms. The moderator sets expectations for participation, and sometimes models appropriate participation. <br />The moderator manages the ebb and flow of the tone, the level of emotion, the intensity – knowing when to push harder, challenge and probe, or pull back and support are crucial skills.<br />Even when there are point systems, the selective attention of the moderator is always a powerful incentive to participants. The moderator must listen deeply and demonstrate that listening with their follow-up responses. <br />For industry groups, just as with in-person qualitative, the moderator must have sufficient category knowledge to be in step with participants as discussions evolve. <br />The challenge online is, it’s harder to get people to open up to you. You really have to be able to write, and express who you are, and express your personality through writing. You’re really writing a script. You’re writing a scripted version of who you are, and how you are communicating with people.<br />Liz Van Patten, Van Patten Research<br />The role of the facilitator is critical. The software is an enabler, it makes everything possible. We have learned a lot about facilitation – developed best practices for facilitation over the years. For example, researchers use a lot of really smart self-disclosure. They use the self-disclosure to humanize themselves and reduce the power differential that often happens in a research process where you have the investigator and the subject. They reduce the power differential to put themselves on the same level.<br />Manila Austin, Communispace<br />29<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  52. 52. The daunting task of analysis that still requires a research brain<br />The joy and pain of online qualitative is that it generates such enormous amounts of data. <br />While there are more automated tools to start the sifting and sorting process with data, the tools do not take the place of the insightful researcher. Some practitioners do not use any specialized tools, beyond common desktop software.<br />A common sentiment is that a reporting plan and process needs to be in place, because there will be a continual stream of findings to absorb and process. Without a plan, this stream creates a burden on the client as well as the researcher.<br />Reports must engage the client, and feed in to the iterative process of the research, by providing a mechanism for the generation of further questions or new concepts. <br />Matt Foley uses a process of e-mailing stakeholders with updates every day to supplement conventional reporting. This approach not only helps the clients, but also forces the researcher to distill learning on a continual basis. <br />Mr. Foley and his colleagues are currently piloting an approach that will provide client teams with their own high-engagement process to address this challenge, again using the tools of social media. “It gives clients a way to engage,” he says.<br />One of the challenges of these communities is really keeping clients inspired and engaged. You could be running tremendous discussions in the community, but if no one is engaged on the client side, it’s all for naught.<br />Matt Foley, PluggedIn Co.<br />You need someone with the strategic judgment, who understands the big issue and the client’s concerns to do the analysis. <br />Liz Van Patten, Van Patten Research <br />30<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  53. 53. Case study: gourmet foodies create opportunities in specialized snacks<br />Dana Slaughter provided this case study that illustrates the Insight Community at work<br />One of my favorite experiences was a community of gourmet foodies we created to help a client consider how to break into the area of specialty snacks.  <br />A community was especially efficient in this case because we populated it with a relatively low-incidence type of consumer (lead users in gourmet foods) and concentrated them in a few cities where we could go beyond the online work and do in-person work with them, as needed. (It would have been expensive and time consuming to continue to find these types one-off each time the client needed to conduct research.)  <br />To ensure we found authentic, passionate gourmet foodies, we recruited the members in person at farmers’ markets and wine bars in four geographically dispersed markets. The group stayed together for 18 months, helping the client to create two new brands in the category (which have been tabled for launch due the economy).  <br />We could be in the field with studies in a matter of a few days – always able to address those pressing questions between meetings.  <br />The type of work the community supported for the new brands included need-state exploratory research after a segmentation study, ideation of new product forms and attributes for gourmet snacks, home-use testing of prototypes, packaging, merchandising, and branding development – so a very broad scope over time. The client felt that this group was much better than even the broader specialty snacking general population at predicting whether these new snack ideas would have early adoption in the marketplace because of their attitudinal and behavioral profile. That ultimately helped to credibly sell in these new propositions to a large organization.  <br />I could go on and on – it was a fun experience and I did 100 percent of the moderating throughout which took about 10 to 20 hours a week most weeks.<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />31<br />
  54. 54. 32<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />Formatted for double sided printing<br />Left hand binding<br />
  55. 55. Future evolution of methodology<br />Contributors see mobile technologies as a natural evolution and enhancement to community activities, including SMS messaging and mobile video. However the new methods are not a replacement for current methods, and will no more eliminate the focus group or interview than television eliminated radio.<br />33<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />4<br />
  56. 56. The future is mobile, with more video<br />The contributors see mobile technologies in general as an obvious direction for the technology to grow and develop. <br />Mobile offers the opportunity of self-ethnography within the context of a private community. Whether mobile text or video, both offer the opportunity to capture in-the-moment consumer activities. <br />Other expected developments:<br />Better understanding of how to fuel CRM from the insights gained<br />Continued borrowing of the tools of social media to create engagement with research respondents<br />You’re not just collecting data here, but we are really and truly understanding. People are answering the questions, they’re interacting with you in their own home, at their own time … there’s not a lot of outside influence in terms of an alpha male or female. They are all who they say they are, because there’s nowhere to hide here. It’s a pretty exciting way to look at qualitative. <br />Let your creativity run wild, because it’s more than likely we can figure out a way.<br />Kathy Fitzpatrick, QualVu<br />34<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  57. 57. Traditional qualitative will continue<br />Researchers using Insight Communities largely do not see this method as a replacement for other forms of qualitative research. <br />Every topic does not warrant this level of investment<br />There is still a need for ad-hoc projects<br />Not all targets have the necessary culture of sharing to enable a community to work<br />As a new way to gather deep insights into the mind of the market, to enable co-creation, and to drive innovation, communities offer exciting potential.<br />It’s another thing to add to the toolkit. I love the approach, but I don’t think it replaces anything else. You will still want to do focus groups, you will still want to do bulletin boards – they all have their role. <br />I don’t think researchers should see it as a threat. It’s just another thing they can add to their repertoire<br />Matt Foley, PluggedIn Co.<br />It’s a tremendously exciting time to be in research, because there’s a melding and borrowing of different tools … I am not one of those who thinks the focus group is going away. It’s just going to keep changing and evolving. It’s like radio, and the movies and TV, everyone predicted radio would die. Radio’s still around. It has changed and evolved, but it’s still around. <br />Liz Van Patten, Van Patten Research<br />35<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  58. 58. 36<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />Formatted for double sided printing<br />Left hand binding<br />
  59. 59. Considerations for clients<br />Client organizations should embark on community building only when they have a real need for regular and repeated engagement with a group of consumers. The resource commitment is significant, both in terms of staff time and third party expense. Although increased brand affinity among community members is a common side effect, an Insight Community is not a Marketplace Community, and creating brand advocates is not a research objective. Organizations must also be prepared to engage in authentic feedback with the community. <br />37<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />5<br />
  60. 60. Develop clear objectives that point to a real need for a community<br />Do not underestimate the resource commitment<br />Contributors to this paper emphasized that organizations embarking on a community project for the first time are likely to underestimate the time and resource commitment needed. <br />The investment is such that an organization should not embark on this path unless there is an ongoing need for input from a specific group of consumers.<br />An organization needs to be clear whether they are managing the community themselves, or are paying directly for these services. Julie Wittes Schlack suggested that internal resources are better spent disseminating the insights inside the organization and figuring out how the insights are actionable.<br />Given the need for internal staff time as well as the direct costs of the research, Matt Foley encourages clients to look at the total cost of ownership, a concept he finds clients are often familiar with due to its frequent use in technology investments. <br />Clearly define your objectives, this is the most common oversight. Unlike other research methodologies, online communities should include multiple objectives.<br />Make sure that the goals and objectives can be measured. Example: increase annual retention by 10 percent, develop three new product ideas.<br />These projects require a significant amount of energy to get off the ground. A time commitment of 20+ hours may be required in the first couple of months [from the client]. <br />Insight Communities are not about Q&A. They are more about engagement and listening for opportunities that match the objectives for the sponsor of the community and then exploring them more with others in the community.<br />Jim Longo, Itracks<br />38<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  61. 61. Marketplace Community or Insight Community? <br />Although brand advocacy may be a side effect this is not the purpose of an Insight Community.<br />Research increases brand affinity<br />Even simple satisfaction surveys have been shown to increase loyalty and satisfaction among consumers. Participants in focus groups often leave the event with a newfound openness to considering a brand. <br />These phenomenon are also very much a part of the community experience as well. Community members are not necessarily brand loyalists, or even users, when they are recruited. However, communities do tend to strengthen brand advocacy. <br />Marketplace Communities versus Insight Communities<br />There is a whole class of organization present in business today that advocates building communities to engage customers for the purpose of building brand loyalty. Igloo software, one such provider, refers to these as Marketplace Communities, a useful distinction. <br />There are companies that confuse social media to listen and social media to build advocacy. We have been approached to build advocacy communities and we turn it down – we are a research company. People see through buzz communities. Community members are often brand advocates, but there are also lots of communities where there are people who don’t do business with the brand. <br />Diane Hessan, Communispace<br />39<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  62. 62. Champions needed: an internal team will be needed to complement the research team<br />Liz Van Patten notes that there is a need for someone in the client organization that co-ordinates the multiple business groups that may be involved, and facilitates the interchange with the research team. <br />Other contributors agreed that clients must spend time considering how they will manage the flow of learning inside the company.<br />Diane Hessan observes that client companies differ in terms of how embedded the community becomes in the client’s processes. “Kraft has embedded their community,” she notes. “They are doing a lot of fuzzy front end stuff in their community.” <br />Ms. Hessan recommends that clients have a team dedicated to help internalize the learning, to communicate with senior executives, and “help the clients get to the planning table.” <br />The first extended panel I ran began as a research service that the client ran for various brand groups. We found that we really needed a champion on the inside of the client company, to keep selling the idea to the various brand groups and to keep generating content. <br />Without that internal champion, we would run out of content from week to week. <br />That’s really the key to success. You need a champion inside on the client company to keep bringing it to people and to keep generating content.<br />Liz Van Patten, Van Patten Research<br />40<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  63. 63. Four key questions: ongoing needs, current spending, engaging topic, and pilot testing<br />Dana Slaughter suggests looking at four key areas to evaluate whether a community is an appropriate approach for an organization.<br />Do you have an ongoing need with this group of consumers?<br />Ms. Slaughter says, “If you have a key business initiative or strategy that warrants this, the community model could be for you.  It goes back to thinking through a calendar of learning needs for a particular issue. For example, we need to learn more about “millennial moms” – how to reach them, what motivates them as moms, what motivates them in our category, what they think about our brand(s), etc.” This kind of topic could support a year or more of in-depth studies and forum discussions<br />Is your spending today significant?<br />Diane Hessan says “We recommend that clients do not stop doing anything they are doing today,” and instead use experimental funds to get started. <br />Ms. Slaughter’s view is to consider efficiency of current spending. If the company says “We did 10<br />studies on Brand A last year and spent $100 to 200K. Within the community model, we could have conducted 12 to 14 studies and had bi-weekly forum discussions as well.”<br />How engaging is the topic?<br />It’s not enough to just have women in a group, according to Ms. Slaughter. There needs to be “social glue, so they stick together and share relevant ideas with each other.” Teens, for example, might be music lovers or adventure seekers, not just teens. <br />If the topic is not engaging enough, and the social glue not present, “you’ll over-spend on keeping the community fresh and the efficiencies will evaporate.”<br />Did a pilot project support moving forward? <br />Before investing, Ms. Slaughter recommends doing a pilot study with the intended community using an online qualitative platform and a skilled moderator. This is especially important if the client team does not have significant experience with online qualitative. <br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />41<br />
  64. 64. Be prepared to provide feedback to the community on their input<br />Researchers will be very familiar with the phenomenon of participants wanting to know what will become of the ideas discussed. The more engaged the participants are, the more they are likely to want to know what happens, and care what happens.<br />Since the majority of communities have a known sponsoring organization, and the individuals are more engaged over a longer time, this desire intensifies. <br />Client organizations must be truly prepared to engage, through the researcher, with a feedback loop. <br />The potential for iterative research designs is one of the real benefits of any longitudinal approach, and offers tremendous opportunities for feedback:<br />Next iterations of a product<br />New concepts created from prior learning<br />Beta testing<br />Don’t enter into this if you aren’t prepared to close the loop with feedback to the community. The answer does not have to be yes. But you must be prepared to give an answer and a rationale. You must also be prepared to tolerate anger and unflattering things. There are often pent up issues. <br />Julie Wittes Schlack, Communispace<br />Reciprocate. Let them know you’re listening. If there is nothing to do, or no perceived value, members will not return.<br />Jim Longo, Itracks<br />42<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  65. 65. A growth path for researchers<br />The skills of qualitative researchers translate well to the community environment, and more easily once they have had online qualitative experience. Qualitative researchers who want to enter this type of work but keep their status as an independent researcher should consider partnering with other researchers, and with some platform providers who are willing to partner.<br />43<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />6<br />
  66. 66. Start with online qualitative, and experience a community as a participant<br />Qualitative research consultants who want to get started in Insight Community work can start climbing the learning curve in two major ways:<br />Develop skill in current online qualitative tools<br />Engage with public online communities to understand more about how they work<br />Join some public forums and panels. Walk in the shoes of the participant. <br />Get acquainted with the optimal use of all of these platforms and methodologies. For example, social listening platforms such as Radian6, BuzzMetrics, Collective Intellect versus online panels versus communities. <br />How do these things differ in terms of their purpose, their structure, their duration and how to tie them back to the client’s business objectives.<br />Julie Wittes Schlack, Communispace<br />44<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  67. 67. Qualitative researchers who want to stay independent can partner with community suppliers<br />Researchers do not have to give up their independent status in order to offer Insight Community benefits to their clients. <br />Dana Slaughter suggests partnering with community suppliers as a way of managing the infrastructure requirements, and also getting support for the community management functions. She cautions that not all community suppliers are interested in partnering with independent researchers, but some are.<br />In addition, both Dana Slaughter and Liz Van Patten recommend partnering with other moderators to manage the workload effectively. While not necessary on every project, anything longer than six months will start to strain resources if a team approach is not in place. <br />Much of what qualitative researchers are doing translates pretty well. If somebody out there has done a bulletin board, you’re not too far off from being able to make the transition to a community. We are trying to demystify it a bit. It seems daunting but it’s not that hard. The things you need to learn are how to encourage user generated conversations, how to get people connecting and talking. It’s a little bit different than the sort of rapport building activities you do in a focus group. <br />Matt Foley, PluggedIn Co.<br />45<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
  68. 68. For further information on this study, contact<br />46<br />The Evolution of Listening © 2010 Abbott Research + Consulting www.abbottresearch.com<br />
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