After one of our recent Marketing Research Online Communities (MROC), a participant revealed the secret of her active involvement: I liked the freedom and the encouragement of imagination. Going outside the box of asking «do you like this product» to «how does this product make you feel» was refreshing and fun for me in expressing my points. This platform allows me to feel like I can give my honest feedback without being judged by others.

Indeed, MROCs allow market researchers to create “an intimate, natural space for consumers to relate to each other and generate their own discussions” leading to “authentic and detailed insights that are likely to be missing from traditional approaches’’[1]. Not surprisingly, MROCs enjoy significantly higher rates of people who meaningfully contribute to the community compared to online brand communities – the screening process, participant compensation and ongoing moderating all ensure a unique positive experience with the brand and enable the generation of insights about specific ideas or concepts.

Okay, but how exactly do you engage your MROC participants? Here are six tips to help you master the art of participation encouragement.

Develop a sense of belonging
All MROC participants are screened according to certain criteria – capitalizing on that one thing that unites them from the very start of the community (cheese lovers, lottery players, small business owners) instantly creates a feeling of connection with other participants.

Make participants feel like they are making a difference (because they are)
Monetary compensation can be motivating but feeling good about oneself for making an impact on a brand is truly powerful. Receiving a personalized thank you/follow-up in response to a detailed answer, an uploaded photo or a started discussion makes participants feel that they are being heard and valued.  

Encourage self-expression
Encourage participants to start their own discussions by starting one yourself – sharing one’s experiences and opinions with fellow participants reinforces the sense of belonging to a community.

Be creative
The participant we quoted above particularly appreciated the opportunity to look at a product from a different angle. One of the ways to achieve this is by turning to projective techniquesa marketing superpower we covered in a previous article. From the way we ask questions (e.g. imagining the product as a person you met at a party instead of simply talking about likes and dislikes) to the way we present these questions (e.g. a daily shopping diary instead of a list of questions about a customer’s shopping habits), we can harness participants’ creativity and make their MROC experience entertaining (and ours – insightful).

Share back

Sharing the use of the collected insights can definitely contribute to a sense of purpose. It could be as easy as writing a small recap of the highlights of the insights gathered the day before. You could even share a few pages of the report after the community is over to let your participants know what use you made of their contributions. Sharing is caring!

Set up an Incentive system

Rewards system like awarding points for every task completed or comment posted is definitely a great way to stimulate participation. Gamification tends to be a great motivator, as well as improve the quality of the output. It is a win-win situation!

That being said, maintaining high participation rates while insuring the depth and quality of consumer feedback remains one of the main challenges of MROCs. Consumers may feel less tempted to open up about certain research topics unless moderators succeed in creating a sense of meaning and connection. Being an MROC moderator means going beyond the question-answer dynamic – it means assuming the role of a researcher, a motivator, a psychologist and even an entertainer. But most of all, it is a form of marketing art that allows you to explore your participants’ creativity as well as your own. So what will your next masterpiece look like?

[1] Austin, M.,  J. W. Schlack. From research to relationship. Marketing News 46 (8), p. 82, 2012.