Archive for the ‘Insight from online communities’ Category.

Maximising the insight you get from your online community

Some online communities are specifically built and managed as insight tools: online research communities. They are designed to help support the consumer or market research needs of the organisation behind the community. They may be public or private, but they are designed to deliver against specific research objectives and involve specific research exercises alongside the organic discussions and debates in the community.

Not all communities are online research communities, but all communities can be a useful source of insight. Just watching the conversations can be invaluable and bring real insight to any organisation, but there are ways that any community can get real insight value from the insight of your members. Over the last few weeks we’ve described eight ways of getting insight from online communities.

  1. Profiling data:gathering the right information and then analysing the profiles of  your community members can bring significant understanding of the people who join your community.
  2. Focused discussions: focusing the discussions in your online community make it easier for people to join the debate and also let you concentrate on those issues that are of most interest to you and likely to bring greatest insights.
  3. Learn their language: the language community members use is often overlooked, but provides a real insight into their lives and their perceptions on a product, market or issue.
  4. Rating and voting: not everybody in an online community wants to begin or even add to discussions, but we can start to understand what they think and get insight from them by offering and than analysing their use of different ways of communicating, such as rating an idea or voting for a piece of content.
  5. Photo uploads: photos offer a real insight into what people think and also allows us to gather opinions people who are not as comfortable expressing themselves in words. What people choose to upload photos of, and the reactions to them bring real insights into the community.
  6. Photo activities:by targeting photo content into specific activities, we are able to maximise the benefit we get from each upload. Get community members to upload photos on a specific theme or in response to a specific question. Isolate the most interesting photos by using rating, ranking and comments to harness the opinions of community members.
  7. Discussion events:as your community matures, patterns emerge in use. One of these will be that people come to the community at similar times each evening. You can take advantage of this by offering discussion events where people discuss a different issue at a certain time each week.
  8. Quick polls:any community can use some simple insight tools, and quick polls are one of these. They are a great way to get instant and top-level quantitative insight from your community, but you must make sure you word the question (and potential answers) carefully if you are going ot use them for real insight.

Of course, a greater depth of insight can be gained from a community that is designed specifically to get insight from your customers and others, and that ties straight into your internal planning, research and strategic fields. For this you need an online research community.

Read our series on Insight from Online Communities

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Insight from online communities: 8. Quick polls

For the final in our series on how to get insight from online communities, we are looking at using what is very much an insight tool but that can be included in any online community: quick polls. Easy to respond to and simple on the community, getting online polls right is actually more difficult than you might think. If you want to get real insight from them, you need to know what questions to ask, and what answers to offer.

Quick polls offer a way to get high-level feedback from your community members on simple quantitative questions. You can understand what people think and can often get feedback very quickly.

There are four steps to make quick polls successful and a useful source of insight:

  1. Define what you want to find out - you have only a quick poll and a limited number of words to explain what you are asking. Define a question that is actually useful to you and that is specific enough so that people understand  what they are being asked.
  2. Choose your words carefully - how you ask the question is very important. You need to be clear, specific and direct. Make sure you are asking only one question otherwise it will be difficult to analyse the results.
  3. Offer specific answers - in a quick poll you probably list a set of answers from which people will choose. Make sure the answers you offer are discrete and different from each other and that you offer all the combinations people will want to choose from.
  4. Use the poll to spark a forum discussion - the poll itself can only tell you what people think. To find out why they think this, you should start a related forum discussion where people can discuss the poll, their answer and the issues it raises.

Quick polls can be a great opportunity to get relatively quick feedback from the community members and real insight into a question that is important to you. It’s important to make sure you make the most of this opportunity and produce data that gives you real insight.

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Insight from online communities: 7. Discussion events

So far in our series on how to get insight from online communities, we’ve looked at the kind of depth of insight your can get from profile information, the discussions on the site and the language people use, ratings and voting and from photos and photo-based activities. For the penultimate post in the series we want to look at a different type of activity that you can run in your online community - discussion events.

The nature of online communities typically lends them to asynchronous discussions, with forums often the centre of the community and the most vibrant and popular parts. In fact, this is one of the real benefits of online communities - they foster debates, discussions and support between people who are disparate temporally and geographically. However, sometimes there can be real benefit from getting members of your online community onto the site at the same time to take part in a discussion event.

As an online community matures, you will find that people start to adopt patterns of use. Some people will always talk about and comment on the same subjects, some people will talk in conversations with their friends, and many members will show clear patterns of use. They will go to the community at the same time during the week and will do similar things when they are there. This pattern of behaviour is one that should be capitalised upon from an insight perspective. If you have a group of your members coming onto the site at the same time every week, then this is a great opportunity to engage them in a new way. Rather than having them discussing things asynchronously, use your existing features to run a discussion event.

As with most things online community, it’s best to start small. Watch when people are most likely to be on your site and then advertise a discussion event to match one of these times - a Tuesday evening chat session, for example. Choose a subject that’s topical and related to the theme of the community and invite people to come onto a forum thread and discuss it for half an hour. The first time you might get a handful of people, but persist. Run them regularly and more and more people will come. Before long you’ll find that this is used as a real catalyst for discussions for the rest of the week. You can get a depth of insight from a range of your community members on a topic that you choose at a time that you choose it. You can then help to direct the community on an ongoing basis by regular, targeted weekly chat sessions.

If you want to really maximise the benefit you get from these sessions you should report back to the rest of the community what went on, what was said and what you think of it. You’ll gain a depth of insight and reinforce a sense of community that can really help to continue to grow and develop a community, even when it’s reached maturity

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Insight from online communities: 6. Photo activities

Our last post in our series on getting insight from online communities looked at the benefit you can get from photo uploads. We are going to stay with this area today but look at how you can maximise the insight benefits you get from photos (and indeed from other media) by running specific photo-based activities, by encouraging comments, ratings and responses to photos.

Online communities can sometimes be daunting when people join for the first time, or when we allow them to do new things or promote new features. People need to be shown what to do, they need to be encouraged. That’s one of the reasons we believe in promoting community management - a good community manager is part of the community and can help to introduce new features and parts of the site, and to encourage activity.

A great way of encouraging participation on the community and focusing so that it is of use to you is to run activities. Many communities have galleries, with no focus or direction to what photos should be uploaded, those that are better are those that are:

  1. clear about why you should upload a photograph
  2. include some element of activity or competition-based incentive (such as “over the next month we want you all to upload a picture of your favourite room in your house”)
  3. allow rating and comments - not everybody will want to upload a photograph but they may want to comment on those already there, and others may just want to rate their favourite photos (or indeed, the ones they like least)
  4. include tagging - allowing users to tag and sort photos will mean that they organise your galleries for you and make it easier to find content and related items

These steps are best as part of a concerted effort to increase photo-activity on your online community and will work best if you focus attention and encourage photos for a particular purpose or on a particular issue. People will know what they’re doing and why they’re uploading photos and then comment, rate, respond and organise them for you.

You’ll also get a wealth of insight. From the photos people choose to upload to the comments they get or the way they’re tagged. And because you’ve focused all this activity on one area or problem you’ll get a depth of insight too.

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Insight from online communities: 5. Photo uploads

We’re halfway through our series highlighting ten ways of getting insight from online communities. We’ve looked already at ways of making the most of the profiling data, conversations, language people use, and ratings. In this post, we’re going to look at how allowing (and even encouraging) photo uploads can be a real source of insight in your online community.

Many online communities are very text-based. They are based on conversations, and the forum is the central area of the community where most activity takes place. But given the increasingly media-rich nature of the Internet, this is something of a shame. Some people just don’t express themselves as well in words as they do in other media. Sometimes a photo can convey an opinion or start a discussion. And sometimes a collection of photos allow people to work together on a problem, issue or problem.

You can get real insight from allowing people to upload photos, and even more from encouraging them. Hotel reviews on TripAdvisor are significantly more meaningful when you have visitor photos to accompany their reviews. If your online community was about a product or service, then finding out how people actually use it would be of real use - photos of where they store your product in their kitchen for example would give you a real insight into peoples’ lives. A community for a holiday firm could get real insight from photos of guests on holiday. A community about home improvement could be much more powerful with photos of peoples’ rooms or houses. In fact pretty much any community could benefit from photos.

There are really three levels of insight you can get from photos:

  1. Understanding why people choose to upload the photos - what photos do they upload? Are some users more likely to upload photos than others? Do the photos that are currently in the gallery influence the photos people upload? Understanding these motivations gives you insight into your community members.
  2. Analysing what people upload photos of - if you run a community for a holiday firm do people usually upload photos of people, the accommodation, the weather or the scenery? This probably gives you a real insight into what they associated with their holiday. People are going to upload photos that they feel reflects the aim or objective of the online community. Analysing what photos they choose to upload will give you real insight into their attitude towards the issue.
  3. Observing what reaction the photos get - do people discuss photos that are uploaded? Do they post photos in response to those already on the site or is each photo upload a fairly extant experience? Are the community members using the photos to tell a story or solve a problem together or is each using it to illustrate their own point.

A photo upload is a source of lots of insight. Into the community member and the community as a whole. Into what they think about the subject or issue at the heart of the online community. Into what their real lives are like.

Photos can, of course, give you more insight. If you encourage and allow comments and voting on photos you can get much more insight. We’ll be talking about this in the next instalment of getting insight from online communities.

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