A Taxonomy of Research Communities – A review ten years on

HandsPosted by Ray Poynter, 6 October 2019.
The post below was written and post ten years ago, in October 2009, in the Typepad platform.

Because the field of online research communities is developing so rapidly it is important to create a structure to help understand the options that confront researchers proposing to use online research communities to gain insight.

The key issues that determine the nature of a community are:

1.       Short term versus continuous
A short term community typically from 3 days to three months, the alternative is to set the community as an ongoing project.

2.       Closed versus open
Most online research communities are created as private communities, often referred to as walled gardens or gated communities. The members of a closed community are recruited by invitation only, which reduces the risk of unfriendly eyes being part of the project. A closed community is also hidden from view, it is not normally possible for people to see it by simply typing in a URL.
An open community, by contrast, has members who will have joined from a variety of sources. They may have responded to advertising, they may be as a result of initiatives such as ‘member find member’, or they may have responded to links on a brand’s website. Even an open community can have restrictions, for example it may screen potential members on whether that are customers or users of some product or service, it may screen by age, by location, or by some other characteristic.

3.       Incentivised versus no incentives
One issue for a community is whether to offer incentives, and if incentives are to be offered, what sort of incentives should they be, for example gifts or cash, per person or prize draw.

4.       Agency or client moderated
Who will run the community, will it be managed by a third-party, such as an agency, or will it be run in-house by the brand.

5.       Highly directed versus community driven
Communities vary in the extent to which community members can determine the agenda.

6.       Pure Research or Hybrid
Is the community going to be purely for market research purposed, or might the community also be used for other purposes, such as Word of Mouth advocacy.

7.       How many members?
Online research communities can have as few as 30 members or as many as tens of thousands. The implications of the number of members is quite profound, as it affects the degree to which a community functions as a community.

A ten-year review
Although I wrote the above post ten years ago, it seems to hold up fairly well. I think the main differences between this note and today’s online communities are:

  • Closed versus Open, at the moment most online communities used for research are Closed and I don’t expect this to change soon.
  • Community Driven, ten years ago we still thought research communities could be made self-perpetuating, leveraging the interest of its members – but it seems that active moderation is key.

What would you add to my points? (Please use the comments at the bottom of the page).

MROC WebinarFind out more about Online Communities – NewMR Webinar

If you’d like to find out more about online communities attend our webinar.

Webinar Thursday 10 October 2019

Live Broadcast New York 10am (London 3pm)

Click here to register

Webinar moderator: Ray Poynter

  • Put your Promoters to Work: Customer Advisory Board,
    presented by Dan Fleetwood, President, QuestionPro Communities
  • How to conduct successful online communities,
    presented by Irina Dimitriade, Research Manager, Mustard

Presentations are followed by Q&A.

2 thoughts on “A Taxonomy of Research Communities – A review ten years on

  1. Wow – good for you Ray – your definitions/descriptions of 10 years ago have truly stood the test of time. I tried to outsmart you by thinking of another change from the two you suggested but probably failed. The only other thing that has changed is the “level of sophistication” of how/what the community members are asked to comment on or the activity they are asked to engage in. I believe these are more complex/involved now than they were 10 years ago (e.g. marking up concepts, polls, collage board requests, etc.

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