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5 Surprisingly Effective Ways to Gather Insights from Online Communities

Online insights communities are uniquely positioned to go deep into the minds and hearts of consumers

By now, you’ve probably realized that online insights communities are an incredibly powerful and efficient way to gather insights, and that many businesses stand to benefit from them by getting more bang for their market research buck. But the benefit is even better than you think, in ways you probably haven’t thought of.

With online insights communities, you can play, take risks, pivot, experiment, and evolve to infuse the consumer or customer’s voice into any challenge you’re facing. And because you can do that, you’re free to find new answers to new challenges in new ways.

Below, I’ve outlined a few surprising applications that I’ve encountered throughout my years leading online insights communities. These applications are possible because of the speed, flexibility, and forgiving nature of community market research and the experts that manage them. If you’re trying to promote a culture of innovation in your organization, I encourage you to try these out.

1. Perception through projection

What is Brand X’s spirit animal? Write a dating profile for Brand Y. Write an ode to your favorite condiment.

These questions probably sound different than what you’re used to in research. They’re projective and help a respondent get around their internal censors to show us what’s really in their mind when they think of your brand, product, or service. The natural inclination of many researchers is to ask questions more directly, but asking questions differently can illuminate crucial, hidden insights. In a community, you can feel safe experimenting with questions you’ve never asked before – you’re not paying per question, and it’s easy and quick to pivot.

How It Adds Value:

This application provides useful information for creative briefs, for assessing your brand or product’s role in consumers’ lives and aspirations, or for understanding how the customer defines your product’s benefits and your competitive landscape.  If you’re just getting directly worded questions from your community partner, push them to go deeper with projective techniques.

2. Profound Reflection

Show us your child’s first day of school lunch boxes! What would a story about your life be called and what would it be about? What’s a recent accomplishment you’re most proud of?

Over time, community members become more comfortable, and are willing to reveal more about themselves. Asking them to share things in fun and creative ways helps them share more. Analyzing this information by persona or segment can highlight opportunities your brand and products or services can play.

How It Adds Value:

This application helps bring your target to life, while also uncovering new hypotheses and nuances to explore across these audiences. It can also be a great way to find new ways for your brand to drive relevance with your target through tactical marketing programs, partnerships, and social media content. 

3. Researching backwards

I wonder how our new segmentation could help us understand the concepts we tested 2 months ago. I wonder if parents reacted to it differently, but unfortunately, we didn’t capture that in our survey.

One beautiful feature of communities is how all the data is interconnected retroactively. It’s easy to capture new data and mix it with old data. For instance, you can do a concept test, and then analyze results by new data you gather months later, such as what segment a community member belongs to or if they have children. If you’re using the right platform, all data collected becomes part of a respondent’s profile, allowing for rich data mining. Communities get smarter over time, so that you can too.

How It Adds Value:

This application is helpful for exploring unforeseen hypotheses, and quite frankly, it’s a saving grace when you realize your story hinges on data you might not have captured in a recent study.  It’s important to have the right community partner in your corner that can help spot these opportunities for data mining and do that mining for you.

4. Digital ethnography

Take photos of what’s new and trendy at your upcoming 4thof July festivities! Document the ups and downs of your next retail experience. Find 3 recipes for new moms that you think are the most and least ‘doable’ as a new mom!

Wouldn’t it be nice to tag along with consumers as they went through the places, experiences, and occasions where your brand plays? In-home ethnographies and shop-alongs are ways of accomplishing this, but they’re time consuming, expensive, and not always practical. Online consumer insights communities give you the tools to do light-touch versions of these market research techniques across a larger group through uploaded photos and videos.

How It Adds Value:

This application is helpful in spotting trends, improving or emulating an experience, and getting a front row seat into a consumer’s experience from afar. When selecting an insights community provider platform, make sure that it has photo and video capture tools to unlock the full power of these techniques

5. Tapping consumers’ creativity

Car shopping is like ____ because ___. On a foreign planet, car shopping is more enjoyable than on Earth because ___.

Asking a consumer ‘What should we do next?’ is one way of crowdsourcing ideas, but another way is to give them the tools to get creative. Then it becomes our job to simply read between the lines of their responses. While consumers might not always have the next big idea in mind, they do have specific frustrations and challenges that the next big idea can solve – and a sense of what that experience should look and feel like. They just need some freedom to express those thoughts in a different way.

How It Adds Value:

This application is helpful in finding inspiration and paints a picture of how that new experience would look and feel differently from today.

Hopefully, you found some of this new and intriguing. This is just a sample of interesting things one can do with community – the possibilities are endless. An online insights community is a place where you can feel comfortable approaching old challenges in new ways, while also capturing traditional data points. That can be even more valuable than the time and cost savings they offer.

About the Author

Tim DeGennaro is AVP, Insights Communities & Research Excellence at Finch Brands. Tim leads the FinchSight Research Communities offering. Prior to joining Finch, Tim spent five years leading online customer insights communities at C-Space for leading brands including Twitter, Sanofi Aventis, U.S. Bank, Hasbro, Heineken, and Dos Equis. Tim started his career at Forrester Research, where he led qualitative and quantitative research programs aimed at helping executives make better decisions.

Next Generation Insights Communities

About The Author: John Ferreira

John Ferreira is Finch Brands’ Chief Insights Officer. Prior to joining us, he spent a decade at Campbell Soup Company in a mix of consumer insights and brand management roles. John is an expert across the entire research stack, with passion for communities, new technologies/methodologies, and how to bring insights to life.

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