“We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain."
Online communities are perfect for when you want to engage with consumers or your customers over a period of time. Put simply, an online community is an extended focus group aided by technology. Think social media but with a purpose and you are almost there!
Online communities offer a balance between depth of information from an individual respondent and breadth of information across the community of respondents. A wide range of activities can be included that keep all respondents engaged and interacting. Unlike a focus group where you have 90 minutes to talk to a room full of respondents who can only contribute one at a time, an online community allows all respondents to contribute to each and every question. This mean a much larger volume of information is produced and because you are able to probe on what every person is saying, you can capture many different view and opinions. The flexibility offered by the digital platform combines the best elements of both focus groups and in-depth interviews.
There are a range of considerations when designing an online community that wouldn't be important when designing focus groups so for online communities more than ever, experience counts! Melanie has conducted more than 50 online communities over the years with her first being back over 10 years ago when the technology was first appearing in the researcher's toolbox and has even been responsible for training other people on how to get the most out of an online community.