Monthly Archives: November 2009

Online Communities: The participants’ experience

ESOMAR Online Conference

The paper presented at the Conference titled, “It Works for Us but Does It Work for Them,” focused on community participants.  The findings were taken from the 17% of these panel members surveyed who had taken part in a community.  Of these, 71% said they “always” or “usually” enjoy participating, so the communities have more positives than negatives.
Generally, participants said they enjoyed participating because communities are a convenient way to provide input on a product or brand and participants felt marketers were truly listening.  Communities are convenient because participants can generally enter and leave when they want and participate as much as they want.  They also liked the fact that they developed familiarity with other community members who they saw there on a regular basis.  Participants also appreciated the optional ability to be anonymous and, presumably, be more honest.
Some of the “dislikes” participants mentioned were the low and uneven distribution of incentives or participation rewards.  Because prize drawings are public, they are open to criticism about fairness.  Participants also questioned the sincerity of some participants, believing that they tended to posture for the marketers than providing true opinions.  
Communities appear to provide strong benefits for participants as well as researchers.  Therefore, they are likely here to stay but will “morph” over time into many different variations. We will continue to watch the community phenomenon unfold along with other techniques to better understand the mind and behavior of the consumer.

Study: Participants prefer focus groups

ESOMAR Online Conference

Earlier this month in Chicago, I had the opportunity to hear Ray Poynter present his paper “It Works for Us, But Does it Work for Them?”  This was a study of 1085 research participants.  The bottom line was that focus groups remain the #1 most enjoyable form of research for participants.  Here are the percent of participants of each method who say they “always” enjoy participating.
  • Focus Groups 51%
  • Online Research Community 39%
  • Online Survey 37%
  • IDIs 33%
  • Telephone Survey 12%
Findings show that people enjoy focus groups because of the high involvement, face-to-face interaction that allows them to share their opinions and bounce ideas off of each other.  They also like the format where people are listening yet there is a specific and limited time commitment.  Participants enjoy the opportunity to “get the inside scoop” on new products or ideas.  Of course, they also appreciate the generous incentives andfree food and drink.
Interesting, there are some significant fears as well.  Some fear judgement by other participants or having to disagree openly with someone else.  Others fear of public speaking and knowing that every word and action is being watched and recorded.  Interestingly, participants expressed frustration over the limited timeframe.  They don’t always get to voice their complete opinion and one person might dominate the discussion and use up “their” time.   
I’ll report more on this paper in another post.  If you would like the whole paper, you can get it for EUR 15.00 at

General Mills has “mandate” to do qualitative research online

The following article was posted by Jeffrey Henning on the Vovici blog (  It is an excellent summary of Ned Winsborouogh’s presentation at the MRA’s First Outlook Conference regarding General Mills’ experience with online qualitative and its subsequent “mandate to move as much of our qualitative research online as possible.”  Especially interesting are General Mills findings and how they are adjusting heir online qualitative based on experience.   General Mills is a QualBoard 3.0 user and has found it to be extremely successful for them.


General Mills Moving Qualitative Research Online

Posted by Jeffrey Henning on Fri, Nov 06, 2009

Ned Winsborough, manager of consumer networks at General Mills, presented “Accelerating

Innovation with Social Networks” at the MRA First Outlook Conference. “We have a mandate at

General Mills to move as much of our qualitative research online as possible in the coming months and years. We have been experimenting with this for a year, but we created our consumer networks team this summer and are now scaling it.” (Consumer networks is the term that General Mills uses for MROCs.)

General Mills has done 22 community projects since last spring. Why online communities? “Online consumer communities meet the needs of consumers, brand teams and agencies with busy lives. They allow you to innovate with consumers better, faster, and cheaper.” With communities, General Mills is able to engage in iterative building of concepts: “We listen, we build; we listen, we tweak. This can be done very quickly, with a lot of flexibility to the method.” Community research allows for faster speed to market. For one project, General Mills did six months of work in six weeks. Compared to other qualitative methods, communities are less expensive. “There is a fixed cost for setting up the communities, which can be very significant, but the incremental cost of doing extra weeks, extra moderation, is very low.”


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