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Most discussion about community panels start from an assumption that people already know quite a bit about both research and online communities. From time to time, I am asked for a simple introduction, well, here is my simple introduction to community panels.

Community panels are a combination of social media (think Facebook) with market research. Community panels are used by organizations to listen to their customers, members, and stakeholders in a systematic, timely and cost-efficient way.

A community panel is a private social network, created for you and your customers. It is like having a roomful of your customers (or members, or stakeholders) just next door. Every time you have a question that you need answering, you open the door and you ask the people inside.

Community panels combine two key features:

  1. They tap into people's lives via a social media format. People expect organizations to reach out to them via social media, and social media allows us much greater access to people's lives, thoughts, and needs.
  2. They are designed by market researchers, which means they can be used in a structured way to gain insights that can guide the organization. A community panel can be used for surveys, quick polls, discussions, and co-creational activities.

A typical community panel comprises:

  1. About 4,000 people, selected to be representative of your key target groups.
  2. A private community, which members can log in to at any time, and branded to match your corporate style.
  3. Quantitative surveys, to get detailed structured responses.
  4. Fun polls to allow you to find very quick answers to single questions, and to provide engagement to members.
  5. Discussions to facilitate two-way feedback and a wide range of qualitative research.
  6. Co-creational activities such as uploading images.

Better, Cheaper, Faster?
Community Panels are the fastest growing research technique and this is because of the way they tackle the trinity of needs, i.e. better, cheaper, and faster.

Better: Community panels offer a wide range of qual and quant research, with respondents who are committed to helping the brand, people we refer to as 'critical friends'. Because communities store every question ever asked and every answer supplied, the same basic questions do not have to be asked over and over. This storing of questions and answers also allows longitudinal analysis, for example which attitudes link to phenomena such as churn.

Cheaper: Community panels massively reduce the marginal cost of research. Once a community panel has been recruited and established, asking one more survey, having one more fun poll, or one more discussion is much cheaper than conventional alternatives.

Faster: Because communities are always on there is no bidding, no RFQ, no procurement, and no recruiting before each study. A fun poll or discussion can be launched within minutes of the client wanting it, and surveys can be fielded on a same day basis.

Self-Serve to Full Service
Different organizations have different needs, and community panels are regularly configured in a variety of ways. For example, some organizations want a self-serve or DIY model, others want a full service option and between these two there are a wide variety of assisted serve options.

Want to know more?
Want to find out more about community panels? Visit the Community Panel section of Vision Critical University.

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