Crowd DNA’s communities director Sabrina Qureshi refreshed and re-booted the topic of online communities at our latest Rise event in London...
We’re not actually new to communities here at Crowd DNA – we’ve been running them since the beginning in lots of different shapes and sizes (and countries). Even so, in typical Crowd style, we like to go beyond the obvious and explore new ways in which they can meet commercial needs.
At our latest Rise event in London, communities director Sabrina Qureshi took the topic of online communities and gave it good shake. Debunking assumptions of ‘what a community looks like’, Sabrina provided quick fire ideas around themes like innovation, the need for flexible audiences and socialising community insights to ensure impact.
While communities can, of course, be used to talk directly to customers, Sabrina explained that the real joy comes from recruiting and engaging leading-edge or hard to reach audiences – different members who can be brought into the mix to ignite discussion and add new cultural references. By reframing communities as cultural insight hubs, we can uncover ongoing trends and insights from across the globe, and discover lots of exciting opportunities along the way.
An editorialised version of the presentation will be sent out soon. In the meantime, here’s our Crowd Communities intro video:
We've packaged up our Crowd IRL thinking in a nice new report format. Email if you'd like a copy...
Crowd IRL is how we get out on-the-road with stakeholder teams, immersing them in the lives and culture of people; helping clients escape the confines of simply attending the debrief presentation or the viewing facility.
In this report, we’ve gathered learnings from across the Crowd DNA team, exploring and celebrating our Crowd IRL method. Send an email to crowdIRL@crowdDNA.com if you’d like to receive a copy and/or discuss ideas for how to make a project of this kind work for your team.
From launching an NYC office to unveiling our thought leadership study for Spotify, we’ve had an amazing year at Crowd…
At this time of year, everyone’s waistbands expand a little. At Crowd, we’ve been happily growing all year. Of course we can’t talk about all the incredible projects that have seen our team travel from South Korea to Argentina and back again (several times). What we can say is that we’re happy to welcome several weighty global clients to the roster.
January kicked off with the release of the Power of Audio project on Spotify for Brands. The study, which saw us travel to US, Brazil, Japan and Manchester, investigates and celebrates the role of sound in our lives, as well as looking at what the future of audio holds for brands and consumers. It’s a great example of the power of socialising insights: the trailer has been viewed 326,000 times on Twitter and counting.
At Crowd we believe that understanding visual culture is essential for getting to grips with consumer culture. In February, Matilda Andersson, head of insight and innovation, shared our thinking when she presented ‘A picture paints: understanding visual culture’ at Atlantic Monday, a Festival Of NewMR webinar.
March saw us proudly open an office in New York, headed by former Flamingo Kiosk NYC lead Hollie Jones. The move to Cooper Square consolidates existing US client relationships and has already resulted in building several new ones. We’re off to a great start, with Hollie joined by Isabelle Kage of the Insight Strategy Group and senior consultant Tom Eccles from London’s Socialise team joining them both in January.
Our first Rise breakfast event in London took place in March. ‘Superfans’ saw Anna Chapman, Socialise director, map the journey of fandom, drawing on our work around influencers and passions.
Gender empowerment has been a huge theme this year both within Crowd and in wider culture. In May, associate director Jake Goretzki discussed the changing face of masculinity in ‘How to speak man’. His session explored changing attitudes to masculinity and, in particular, what being a man means among millennials.
In June, products and services expert, Tom Morgan teamed up with our service designer Essi Mikkola to discuss how we tackle consumer journeys at Crowd, combining a cultural, behavioural science and visual approach.
At Crowd, we’re well known for our work researching millennials and increasingly Gen Z, so it might seem a little odd to debunk traditional demographics with an event called ‘Agelessness’. But as an insights and innovation agency, we know that as the world changes, so do our beloved cohorts. In September, our brand and communications expert, Eleanor Sankey tackled this delicate subject by exploring the idea that understanding consumers by age traits can be a little limiting at times.
Over the year we hosted a number of Rise events in London and Amsterdam. Each one, supported by Crowd content, including downloadable PDFs. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be sent these.
What better time than the summer to make a short film about what we do? Edited by our head of film, Tom Eccles, it’s definitely worth just over one minute of your time.
September saw the launch of CrowdStars our global network of thinkers, influencers, creators and culture-shapers. We work with them to shake up conventional thinking within businesses in areas including immersive workshops and co-creation sessions, expert interviews and forecasting.
In October Sabrina Qureshi joined us as online communities director. We’re not actually new to online communities. We’ve been running them for years for the likes of IKEA, Booking.com, Sony Music and Channel 4. But now we’re giving the offer an even stronger position within our business – recognising the value of online communities in developing deep and continuous relationships with target audiences for our clients.
Engage to succeed. Disengage to fail. Our online communities director, Sabrina Qureshi, explores how best to keep community participants motivated and productive…
Why do people join communities?
For the money, because they are bored? Happily there’s generally more to it than that. Having asked a lot of members from various communities why they decided to join, the feedback is regularly: ‘I’m interested in finding out more about the brand.’ It’s always a relief to know that members are not just driven by the monetary gain and it helps to emphasise the difference between a community and a panel. It also provides the fuel to convince teams that engagement is important. In fact, the success of the whole community relies on it.
Engaged communities provide an altogether better working model: better retention, higher volume of responses, richer content and you can set more demanding tasks. It ensures less cost to manage, increases efficiencies and inspires stronger insights. It’s a no brainer.
There’s a lot at stake
When you create a branded community it is an extension of your values, expectations and, yes, your brand. So, if consumers get a bad experience, it won’t just affect your research but the brand as a whole. Conversely, if you succeed, you can reap the rewards of positive word-of-mouth. If you’re creating a non-branded community, members don’t have the pull of a brand to help engage, (even more so if it’s a low engagement subject), so you need to work even harder to create a worthwhile and fun environment for participants.
There are many elements that can help to engage community members, from scheduled incentives and the look, feel and personality of the community, to the quality of the actual research work itself.
- Brainstorm all areas of the community when thinking about engagement
- Build up an engagement bank early and keep updating it
- Keep the ideas relevant and unique to your brand/members; one size doesn’t fit all
- Think creatively; make it fun
If you want participants to share with you, share back with them as much as you can. It’s incredibly important to provide regular feedback from the business on the impact the members are making. We know this is not always possible, as things take a while to develop in-house plus confidentially may be a factor, but share what you can, as often as you can. This could take the form of video updates from the brand team, emails or content published on the community platform.
Members want to feel like they are part of something, so add in a range of activities to encourage them to get to know each other. Introduce them to each other with personal on-boarding sessions and member spotlights. Introduce your team and whoever is running the community, and share your answers to questions. Schedule face to face group meetings, Skype chats or live online focus groups. Try to treat everyone as an individual, send them a birthday card or reminder of a brand discount. Remember this is a long-term relationship – aim to make friends!
If the research schedule is busy, make sure each project is as engaging as possible. If you’re sending a long survey (try not to!), add a forum on the back to get people talking to each other. Gamify response options with quick fire questions or task and points-based activities. Split longer activities over multiple days. Add in tiered incentives for multiphase projects. Use engaging tech platforms to help, not hinder. Ask paeticipants if they enjoyed it, and what you should change.
Most communities go through stages of high and low volumes of research activity. It’s extremely useful that your community managers own the activity schedule and help to organise it. When there’s a gap or a project cancellation it can be a scramble to get anything onto the community. If you build up your engagement bank at the start you can be prepared with activities to fill the gaps as soon as you need to. These could take any form – a timely forum debate, weekend photo task, scheduled live chat etc…
We talked about this in the recruitment stage, and it applies throughout the life of the community. What are participants, as well as you, going to get out of community membership? This doesn’t need to be something physical, but it could be a new friendship, a wider understanding about their fellow members, learning about a life hack. It could be support on their new business, or a feeling of being part of something that influences new products and service design. Try to achieve a fair value exchange.
In it to win it
Extrinsic incentives are always a fail-safe basic for ongoing engagement, but try not to use points that link directly to money, as this encourages a transactional mind frame. Create a monthly prize draw with multiple vouchers prizes, and preferably individualise the vouchers to the personal interests of the members. Get up to speed local market best practise, as in some countries not all vouchers are acceptable. Audit the assets the brand has and use them to surprise and delight especially engaged members. Gamified engagement points can be used to create tiered systems where members graduate up, and in return get extra benefits (additional prize draw entries, surprises, early release content, influence over future research topics).
Time spent engaging members sometimes fails to be adequately prioritised when running communities and often involves more input than initially envisaged. But with the right guidance and planning it can become an extremely symbiotic aspect of helping your community to succeed.
Online communities: put the best in to get the best out. Recruitment tips from our online communities director, Sabrina Qureshi...
Recruiting people to take part in research can be hastily brushed over in the planning stages of project design, if left in the wrong hands, but it’s one of the most important aspects to get right – and never more so than with a community. Think about the members of a community as vital ingredients of a cake (bear with me) – if you put the wrong elements in, or even an imbalance of measures, your cake just isn’t going to work. Get it right, and you’ll be able to tap into a highly engaged, always-on group of people; to build up a rich picture of who they are, and follow them as their tastes and choices change based on the cultural influences around them; rely on them for honest advice and opinions. That, in insight terms, is a jolly good cake…
Recruiting to communities isn’t straight forward. There’s a few things to consider, especially to keep the community going long-term.
Define who, but stay flexible
Go back to the objectives of the community to help guide who the members are. If you get this bit wrong, not only do you risk annoying the members with irrelevant content, but you won’t get what you need out the other side.
If you’re thinking long-term, will this target audience be able to answer a majority of the research topics (at least 80%), or will you need to speak to different groups over the course of a year? If the latter, maybe consider shorter communities where you define the audience each time.
Reflect the global footprint of your brand by bringing in the voices of markets that are of most strategic importance. Make sure the tech you’re using and the community team can appropriately support this, and have the ability to engage members in the language most comfortable for them, getting to truer and more accurate insights.
Variety is the spice of life, so don’t be afraid to bring in different voices to your community for short periods of time, or specific projects. We sometimes tap into our CrowdStars for expert opinions, or bring in a separate group of non-customers to take part in a few projects and then let them go.
When getting into the nuances of cultural trends, you don’t need to limit the group to your customer; rather, you might want to concentrate on those who are ahead of the curve. For innovation, you might want a group of trusted advisors who are invested in the brand, so current customers are great. Supplement with dips of non-customers along the way, so you don’t lose the wider market view.
The value exchange
Once you know who to target, think about why those people might want to join your community. What are they going to get out of it? Especially for long-term communities there has to be a strong sense this will be mutually beneficial – a few Amazon vouchers won’t suffice. Appeal to the needs of that audience and think about what your brand can offer:
- Time poor execs might answer some activities if in return they get advice on sales techniques
- Trendsetters might be swayed by exclusive content and early bird access
- Mums might appreciate a community of like-minded individuals to chat to socially
- Adventure seekers might enjoy being part of one-off experiences
One surefire way to lose members is through unaligned expectations. If you want people to commit to one hour a week, let them know upfront. Part of this is also about gathering individualised information on your members at the sign-up and tailoring the experience to their needs. Some people don’t want to send in videos every week, but others are happy to take part in three surveys over a few days.
Onboard and connect
Once you have your members recruited the focus is to keep them there – and enthusiastic about taking part in the community projects. Plan an intro stage, no matter how short the community is live. Get to know your members personally and encourage them to get to know each other. Intro tasks are engaging for members plus a great source of foundational, scene-setting content to share back with internal stakeholders.
Once things have got going, we usually plan a variety of engagement activities which help to keep members interested, encourage responses and reduce drop off – but that’s a whole other blog post!
Recruitment isn’t a one-time affair
You’ll have to appreciate that not everyone wants to, or can, stay on a community forever. The aim is to keep as many people there for as long as possible, and make sure they have a good experience along the way. Keep your recruitment plans up to date (your community managers should be able to help), and make sure they are varied and consistent. Apply as many ongoing recruitment sources as you can, and as a brand, do an audit on the communication platforms you can use.
Ongoing recruitment techniques include:
- setting up a Twitter account and tweeting about updates, prizes and encourage sign up
- using Facebook to identify the profiles you want to speak to and contact them directly
- asking members to refer their friends or family via their social network and give prizes to those who succeed
- broadcasting the impact the community members have on the brand on public platforms such as your website
As with most aspects of a community, keep reviewing. Does the audience continue to fit with your research needs, strategically and for each project that is allocated to the community workstream? Ideally you should be able to rely on your community management partners to proactively advise on the audience and provide creative solutions for mixed audience projects.
For more information on starting a community please get in touch.
Crowd DNA online communities director, Sabrina Qureshi, advises that an adaptable community is a future-proofed one...
Online communities bring a wealth of great content and insight to clients in timely and agile ways. But, all too often, after a few months or a first year of great success the community can lose its way. There is an abundance of reasons why this might happen; key champions leaving, day to day owners changing, company strategies developing, or initial objectives being fulfilled. Client and agency teams sit around twiddling their thumbs trying to work out what to do – or, worse still, let the communities dwindle to a slow death.
This is a real shame as usually the hard work, such as creating a look and feel, building engaged members and selling it into the business, is already done. This should be the time to reap the rewards of the well-oiled machine!
Without clear objectives, a community can’t survive, but we know that needs can change. So there’s a requirement to think about communities as shape shifters. They represent a long-term relationship, but one that’s adaptable and fluid. They can morph in line with a brand’s strategy, to continue to be a relevant source of insight.
It’s incredibly simple to do this; here are some tips:
- Let go of the original objectives (if you need to): If these are no longer fit for the business, don’t be afraid to relinquish them. They will only hold you back.
- Brainstorm with everyone (regularly): Maybe the objectives were specific to one team within the business, but how else could the rest of the business use the community to help support their decisions?
- Mix and match: Review who you are talking to – is this still the group you need? Do you need to expand and include other target groups, or maybe you want to focus in on a particular group?
- Ability to flex: Make sure you have the right community solution from the start, one that allows you to be flexible later down the line, from a tech and expertise perspective.
We’ve worked with brands whose original community objectives were focused on deep profiling and behavioural understanding. Once those initial objectives were achieved we identified that there was a developing need to explore the wider cultural trends across the markets the members were in, in order to feed more broadly into the innovation and product development teams. This simple side-step focus allowed us to keep the community relevant for the client, and therefore keep engaging the members in important topics and activities.
An online community has the potential to benefit the entire business, from UX designers, to marketing and R’n’D. But fundamentally, you need to make sure that it fits with the future strategy of the brand to help distribute knowledge and understanding in key areas.
Crowd DNA's Lucy Crotty charts 30 years of comms evolution at IKEA...
We’ve worked with IKEA on some really interesting projects recently and raise a glass in celebrating their 30th year in the UK this month.
IKEA is a special brand in the marketing and advertising world, constantly admired by the industry and public for delighting with their creative ideas.
As we know, these great ideas don’t fall from trees – there is an awful lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. IKEA positioned itself as a disruptor in the 90s, crashing into a world of chintz and challenging the British public to embrace a new version of taste and ‘homeliness’. A bold, risky move and a rebellious stance that informed the brand’s communications strategy for the next five years.
In the noughties, as IKEA became part of the normal British home, it didn’t need to – or perhaps couldn’t so easily – flex its rebel credentials. But rather than just settle for familiarity and functional attributes, IKEA have always gone deeper to understand emotional brand benefits. They realised that when people buy into IKEA, they buy into possibility, an incredible insight that has moved them from selling affordable furniture to selling lifestyle solutions. IKEA is all about cool stuff to create a better everyday life and through this brand purpose they have moved into a charming creative territory of The Wonderful Everyday.
When a brand has a clear purpose, exciting, creative things can happen. IKEA has never just sold candles – it sells imagination. Stay tuned for an upcoming Crowd DNA Rise event on the theme of purpose.
Catch us at the MRS day devoted to discussing and debating social media behaviours and trends on February 8, 2018...
Our head of insights and innovation, Dr Matilda Andersson, will be presenting at the event; furthering our recent agelessness work and looking at the role of social media in forging cross-generational communication.
Social media is often described as the new bus stop or park bench: a space for teenagers to hang out with each other, away from their parents. However, Matilda will be proposing that social media can also be important for bridging gaps between generations, bringing them closer together. Her insight is grounded in demographic trends, which show the gap between young and old decrease as Gen Z grows up faster, millennials delay adulthood and Gen X and Boomers live in very different ways to their parents.