What are Short-Term Market Research Online Communities?

Short-term market research online communities, also referred to as ad hoc research communities, are comprised of a limited number of participants, roughly up to 50, grouped by their common interests to regularly ideate, assess, and hone ideas around a given research topic on a short-run online research platform. This consumer research tool only has one main objective to accomplish which makes its duration shorter - usually not more than four months.

short-term-market-research-online-community-explainedDue to its short time frame, short-term MROCs tend to be intensive as researchers are more pressured to fulfill project requirements in very little time, requiring participants to frequently return to the digital community platform or online bulletin board and spontaneously contribute insights. Gamification of activities, rewards, and objectives engage them to actively comply and participate. Insights are managed by conducting different activity options specific to what type of data the researcher wants to collect. As of activities, they are comprised of open-ended text responses, concept mark-ups, sort and rank, pooling, grids, and media file uploads among many others.

Short-term online community participants are fixed from start to finish. They do not recruit more people in the process. Market research using a short-term online community is completed before recruiting a new set of respondents or starting another project. These participants cannot be changed or replaced during the research process to prevent the disruption of the group’s dynamics as well as to avoid possible compromises in data value.

The small participant volume of a short-term online community makes it easy to manage, collect, and verify data bona fides. However, a limitation of the short-term time frame is that it barely allows researchers to develop a deep understanding of the characteristics, personalities, culture, and beliefs of the participants.

Deciding to go with short-term research communities is not mainly dependent on whether or not you want to gather information on the fast track. There are several factors that need to be taken into consideration such as research objectives. As mentioned, short-term is only ideal for those who want to focus on one main objective only. Multiple objectives need a longer completion time which is difficult to compress and conduct in a short period of time. In these cases, long-term market research online communities are recommended.

Another factor that limits short-term MROCs is budget. Long-term market research online communities are typically more expensive due to the higher volume of participants, but requiring participants to contribute frequently can be costly for a short-term community too. A great example of this is “Cash for comments”. This means that the more insight participants contribute, the more rewards they may feel entitled to.

It may seem that there is very minimal participant burnout in short-term communities, but being obliged to spend a lot of time to contribute insights everyday is something that can push participants to be less engaged. It is essential that market researchers are mindful of the tasks they’re putting participants into as well as have a clear understanding on working with market research online communities. Do not turn insight sharing into a strenuous task. Carefully strategize how to generate enough insights in a short time period without anyone dropping off. Insights are supposed to come naturally anyway - not forcefully. Authenticity cannot be pressed.