Online communities are so much more than a forum space these days. Software has developed phenomenally to enable all sorts of exciting layers of data collection, for example "liking", one to one probing within a group, images and video.
But to avoid taking your online community for granted (which I fear can happen because online research is so flexible that we see it as easily slotting around other research), you should inject these 3 things into it:
At FlexMR we like co-creating online, as researchers this experience feels intuitively right.When we run an online group we are able to summarise the conversation and show it back to the group in a graphic at the end - so we can double check we have got the tone of the conversation right. This kind of dynamic and live interaction is exactly what online communities are best at.
You need to always utilise the full range of tools available to you to create a dynamic two-way conversation, whether you are one to one probing in your forum or quick polling in your focus group. Any change in tack helps keep the conversation going and extends the depth of your findings.
You may be talking to a highly targeted segment in your market who have lots of similar characteristics, but they will still respond differently to different scenarios, so back up your qual with a survey, re-iterate your point with an image or change up the tone of your comments to bring alive the research output and your findings.
Most of all, don't let your enthusiasm wain! Over a longer project the research aims can twist and turn in response to business needs but your responsiveness and enthusiasm can't. Making sure you are using all the tools at your disposal can also help with your own motivation - you could even be designing your own innovative methodology that researchers tomorrow will copy.
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