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Five ways to engage your online research community

Updated: Jan 3, 2020

Written by: Evan Goodfellow

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How to Engage Community Members?

The most commonly asked question that we hear is “how can a company make their communities more engaging?” We see it time and again, a company decides to get a community, and they see high levels of excitement within the management, people are signing up daily to join the community and then a few months pass by and the engagement stagnates -or worse, begins to drop off. Don’t worry, this happens to the best communities. There are steps a company can take to keep engagement going strong, and methods you can employ to bring your numbers back up. We came up with a list of our top five ways to engage your online community.

 1. Hire the right community managers

As in sports, the right coach can champion team members and bring out the best in the group. We have found with communities that a good community manager is not only necessary, but vital in keeping the community strong and ensuring a good ROI. Community management requires a specific type of skill sets. A good community manager can bring excitement to the community, and ensure that everyone in the group feels validated and cared for. We are a firm believer that community members should be viewed as friends or neighbours and not just a number or stat to which you can input information and receive back data.  A good community manager fosters a culture in the group and leads by example. A good community manager is also an internal advocate for the community, representing the community on internal company matters that impact the community, and speaking on its behalf.  For example, the need for more frequent, and shorter surveys that we have written about previously.

2. Position the community as part of the customer experience

Everyone is talking about the importance of user experience and customer experience. We believe that your community can add value to the products or services sold by having both internal resources and community members available to share expertise with new customers. Individuals who have joined the community have done so because they believe in the product and or service and want to be involved in bettering that product or service. While many older executives sometimes see communities as a necessary burden to impose on their clients, we like many others, see it as something to include in your marketing materials. Younger individuals are drawn to a company that has an branded market research online community because it means the company values their opinion.  We believe that multiple touch points are highly valuable in recruitment. We suggest introducing the community when on-boarding new customers. This builds free technical support and increases loyalty and advocacy.

3.  Welcome and encourage new users

On board new users in an easy way. We feel the best way to recruit and keep new users with our software is by making the technology simple and accessible. Insightrix Communities software allows modular profiling surveys to customize the experience to the new members.  Our system can use data provided in the first basic profiling survey to automatically unlock additional profile modules.  For example, self-identified pet owners could be presented with an additional profile survey on their pets that non-pet owners would not be offered.  The new member sees a survey wanting to know more about what is important to them, with both the new member and the quality of research benefiting. As well, the “invitation rule” system can automatically enrol new members in appropriate on-going discussion groups so that they immediately have relevant and engaging content available to them.  This is much better than joining the community and waiting days (or weeks) for a community manager to create a new study.

4. Ask questions that matter to the community

One of the best ways to keep the online research community engaged is by learning from them and learning what kind of questions they want to discuss. A great way to do this is through mobile optimized communities. We highly discourage limiting engagements to a research driven script. One of the unique powers of online communities is that they are organic and multidimensional, with members engaging each other as well as the moderator. Well managed group intelligence is greater than any one person, and it is this intelligence that you want to foster and begin harvesting.  Allow the community to organically shape the conversations and areas of feedback alongside your research agenda.   Avoiding topics important to your members (perhaps because they are negative or difficult) is a good way to drive off members.  It basically says you don’t want to listen, which is opposite of what a community is about.  Use the organic nature of online communities to create a self sustaining environment engagement inside of which you run your research program instead of hoping your research program alone is enough to foster engagement.

5. Reward your advocates

A key to maintaining a high level of engagement is helping members feel that their time is appreciated and that what they are doing is important. That is why thanking members is crucial. A good community creates a sense of belonging among members. One way to help members feel appreciated is by showing results in the form of short, easy to read reports showing how their consultation has helped shape decisions. We think that one page infographic style reports are the best liked. Incentives and other rewards can also be used to increase community engagement and member satisfaction.  Long term engagement becomes especially important in smaller communities where it may be very difficult (and costly) to recruit members that meet very specific criteria. When trying to grow a large community such as a quantitative panel or a hybrid community, your existing members are your best source for new members. Our platform allows you to manage referral programs providing each member with a unique, trackable referral link so they can recruit others to your community.  Upon activation of new accounts, these referral links can be used to provide reward points to the referring member.  Keeping your members engaged and satisfied will greatly increase the effort they are willing to expend on recruiting on your behalf.

We believe that a well-run community is your best advantage over your competition. By creating a market research online community you can tap into the collective intelligence of your customers and create the best products and or services possible. We believe that in order to create the most engaging community, its members need to feel appreciated and understand that their opinions are being considered and being used to shape and drive decision making. A good leader is needed to organize and bring out the best in any group, and that is why a skilled community manager is so crucial.

If you would like to find out how your company can benefit from an online community please feel free to contact us at Insightrix Communities.

Check us out on LinkedIn!

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