Monday, September 21, 2009

Social Media and Market Research

Earlier this month Brad Bortner posed this question in The Forrester Blog For B2B Market Research Professionals:
"Are MROCs [Market Research Online Communities] the next big thing in market research, and will they eventually take measurable share from traditional qualitative research?"
Sentient Services has been working in online qualitative for a few years now through asynchronous bulletin board focus groups. While you give up a lot in moving away from a face-to-face interaction (body language, vocal intonation, etc.), in an asynchronous online group you have a lot of different strengths.
  1. Less time restraint – respondents have more time to think, they can look up notes and do “homework” assignments. Additionally, we can let side conversations go and see if the tangent provides additional insight
  2. Broader coverage – asynchronous participation means that respondents aren’t locked into 6-8pm ET, making time zones a non-issue. This translates to breaking down some geographic boundaries.
  3. Bigger groups – we’re not limited to the capacity of a conference room, meaning that we “seat” at least 12 participants per group (vs. 6-8 participants in a traditional group).
While we’ve previously scrutinized sample goodness when using social networks for market research and the value of polling features in LinkedIn, I believe MROCs (private online communities focused on research) are just an extension of online methodologies we already see. Instead of recruiting participants to one online discussion or survey, they are being recruited for continuing feedback on a variety of topics. And MROCs will impact both qualitative and quantitative research – it’s just as easy to host a survey in an online community as it is a forum discussion.

What are your thoughts on MROCs? What other evolutions do you foresee in the research industry?

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