Why do respondents take part in online communities?

There’s a lot written about why online communities can be the perfect tool to use for market research purposes when you want to explore a particular topic, or a particular shopper type in more detail. It’s great for getting ideas and inspiration from consumers, and engaging with consumers through research in a way which doesn’t involve surveys and focus groups. 

But what is in it for the respondent? Why do they invest time and energy putting thought and hopefully careful consideration into their contributions to an online community? Well, we asked them! At the end of our three week online community to explore the dark and mysterious world of The Savvy Shopper, we facilitated a live chat with some of our respondents to find out what made them tick about the community.

Why did they keep coming back to join us day after day?
“I enjoyed reading other peoples’ responses, and applying them to my own thinking.”
“It’s nice to hear from real people other than just advertisements etc…:-)”

One overriding factor was that respondents told us they simply like seeing what other people think. Ok, as market researchers we are a naturally curious bunch, but perhaps we take it a bit for granted that ‘real’ people are curious too! There’s nothing like finding out whether people share your opinion on a topic, or whether they disagree with you, and an online community is a great platform for people sharing their views honestly and candidly (often perhaps more honestly than they would in a face-to-face situation)

“I found that what I thought was ‘best’ was not always the best – that was a really good lesson!;-)”
People also told us that they enjoyed learning from other respondents. This was particularly pertinent in this example, where our community was about encouraging participants to share tips and trade ideas for saving money. But it’s a key learning for us – make sure the respondents feel they are getting something out it, that they are learning something new, and they will keep on coming back and engaging with you.

“Brilliant thanks. You’ve kept it straight forward and interesting.”
It was straightforward. Perhaps this is not the most inspiring reason, but one that is very important none-the-less. Our community was easy to use as a participant with simple navigation links. Respondents felt they could easily understand the structure and navigation of the community. It’s essential to any web design – keep it simple – but it also applies to online communities.

I think the incentive to post is much better here – first off because of the amazon voucher and also because of the community which developed over the long time period.” 

Surprisingly, not that many people mentioned the cash incentive to participate – perhaps they are just being polite! But I think it does goes to show that a well-designed research project doesn’t have to rely on incentives to get people to share their views. That’s not to say people don’t want an incentive, but it’s not the only draw.

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Amy Nichols
01962 842211
Article date - 30/09/2013
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