Stephen Cribbett of Dub Research in London recently published a post that was picked up by Quirks. The article perfectly highlights the downfalls that many researchers face when planning and launching a new panel community.
The article was written from the POV of focus groups and qualitative communities, but the concepts are still heavily influential for launching and nurturing survey panel communities. We’ve shortened and a little and highlighted the most important tips below.
In short, remember that panelists are busy people. Busy people who have a genuine interest in participating in your research. So be sure to cater to them – acknowledge them, make them feel welcome, and ensure that they feel comfortable enough that they will stick around and share their experiences with you. On with the list:
1. Creating a virtual ghost town
When your research community launches and the first person to arrive finds a community devoid of people, conversations and any life forms, they’ll be experiencing what’s referred to as a virtual ghost town. And nobody wants to be the first person at a party.
Establish some energy by seeding content from the very beginning, and sometimes even before the community has launched to participants.
2. Failing to welcome and brief participants
Eager to begin the research activities, researchers can sometimes forget the critical importance of establishing rapport and warming up participants. Encourage them to open up and express themselves, making certain that they understand that there is no right or wrong answer.
To facilitate this, consider using ice-breaking activities such as an open discussion or mini ‘fun’ surveys. When new participants come into the research community and see these existing activities, it gives them a head start in getting to know the other respondents (if structured as open discussion), or understanding the structure of the panel and future surveys (if structured as introductory surveys). Here are some example questions:
- What do you always carry with you in your bag?
- Who do you most admire in life and why?
- What can’t you live without?
- When did you last do something for the first time?
Note that some of these ‘fun’ questions can double as panelist profile attributes for future filtering!
3. Not sharing the purpose and objectives
Both the community and the individual tasks and discussions that you are launching need clear explanation. The more you can clarify the objective of asking a question or setting a task, the more likely you are to get a great response.
Trust leads to greater openness and expression from the members, which means you are more likely to uncover unexpected insights in your research. Transparency with regards to the community mission will be vital in order for you to accomplish this endeavor.
4. Not being flexible with time and structure
Structure is important but rigid adherence to pre-determined tasks can be your enemy. You want to leave enough in your agenda to allow members to touch on further topics, since this can lead to interesting ideas and themes bubbling up to the surface via qualitative discussion. Remember to build in time to explore these unanticipated topic areas.
5. Peaking too soon
The energy and excitement around the initial launch of a community can sometimes result in it peaking too early, with moderators losing focus or getting distracted with other work commitments as time passes. Be on guard against this, even for relatively short communities. Working to establish solid relationships within the community early on can help keep things going strong and lead to productive discussions and valuable insights.
6. Not getting to know your chosen community platform
When it comes to selecting the best and most appropriate market research technology, spend time doing your due diligence and learning how it works. You don’t want to make the common mistake of assuming the technology can do something it can’t. Choose a panel portal tool with a robust backend management toolbox and an engaging portal experience for panelists.
Once you’ve made your choice, make time to experiment or run trials. Give yourself time fully understand its capabilities and how far you can push the tasks. Promotional note: Voxco Panel Manager offers a Day 1 integration kit that gives you the source code and design templates you need to get started immediately. Get in touch with us to see how it can help!
7. Expecting too much of your members
Avoid cramming in too many tasks and discussions because, ultimately, it will over-load members who will quickly lose interest and slope off. Always try to take a step back and ask yourself, “Would I be prepared to do this myself?” or “Would I be able to achieve this in the allotted time?”
8. Thinking, “If I build it, they will come.”
Simply building a research community is not enough. Communities are organic, living things that require time, effort, intellect and resources in order to be successful and reveal the insights that you need.
Take the community through its life stages, investing in people and relationships along the way. When obstacles come – and they will – try to see them as opportunities and be confident that you can always find a way to work around them.
9. Not being prepared for the volume of data
Many first-timers end up underestimating the amount of data they will collect, and then don’t have a good plan in place for how to analyze and report on that data. So a top tip is to formulate hypotheses, and be prepared for rolling analysis techniques and tools.
On a typical basis you should seek to commence your analyses halfway through the community. If you have resources available, consider how to combine efforts and work together as a team.
10. No plan in place
You can’t launch your community on day one and then wait until day two to figure out what to do! Be sure to know how the next few weeks or months will play out. What will your role and input be? Only then can you manage client expectations. Community planning requires a careful balance. Although you should look to avoid over-planning and preparing, It’s recommended that you have a loose framework to utilize your members time effectively.
The welcoming phase is crucial, demanding effort and energy, so having early activities set up and ready to roll will make your life so much easier, leaving you time to concentrate on planning and re-shaping further activities in the light of feedback that you gather.