Get involved and make the most of your online community

Tin Can Phone - KnotImage by Jeff_Werner via Flickr

Today I was speaking at the MRS Online Methods conference on London – a great day with people sharing ideas on online research and how to engage customers online.

I was speaking specifically about how online research communities are actually just online communities that people use for research but that they should also use for other things (PR, marketing, customer service, innovation…the list goes on). And about how the client can, and indeed should, get involved in the process. It’s when you don’t do this when online communities fail to live up to their promise. We need to think community first and research second, rather than just tagging a forum onto your online survey. That’s when you get the real benefits and when you start having some fun.

The presentation I gave is below. As always these things are better presented but the point should still come through clearly. Thinking just about an online research community misses out on the big opportunity. An online community is a direct line to your customers. Research is a great place to start with this but you need to think bigger.

To make the most of this the client has to get involved:

  1. Add value to the community by being a visible part of it, either to respond to specific points, join discussions naturally or even to take a major role in community management
  2. Incentivise the responses but don’t do this with money. A good community is a vibrant social environment; adding money into this turns things into a market. It changes the dynamic to the detriment of the community itself. Think of what else you can give people. Think about what knowledge and ideas you can trade for their ideas
  3. Make sure you represent the community in the business and that your brand is making full benefit of the powerful resource it now has
Getting the client involved in the online community