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Making Communities Connect. MRIA – Ottawa Chapter April 2009. Agenda. How have qualitative methods evolved? What does it mean for marketers? Connecting through online communities Why use online communities? What are the proper uses? What are the keys to success? Some lessons for future.

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making communities connect

Making Communities Connect

MRIA – Ottawa Chapter

April 2009

  • How have qualitative methods evolved?
  • What does it mean for marketers?
  • Connecting through online communities
  • Why use online communities?
  • What are the proper uses?
  • What are the keys to success?
  • Some lessons for future
how have qualitative methods evolved
How have qualitative methods evolved?
  • Just prior to World War II, western society was reaching a pivotal stage in the trend towards urbanization.
  • More people were living in close proximity to one another, presenting new opportunities for socialization.
    • e.g. coffee parties
  • These developments had an impact on marketers and their practices.
how have qualitative methods evolved cont d
How have qualitative methods evolved? (cont’d)
  • Focus groups (“focused interviews”) emerged for the first time prior to World War II, coinciding closely with the growth in urbanization.
  • Marketers recognized that social interactions played a increasingly important role in decisions that people make.
  • Lore has it that they started to use facilities for logistical reasons.
how have qualitative methods evolved cont d1
How have qualitative methods evolved? (cont’d)
  • The rise of the Internet and social networks has emerged as a new trend that affects the manner in which social interactions occur.
  • This time, it’s driven by technology rather than geography.
  • Rather than interacting in small group settings, they’re reaching out to larger numbers of people through the Internet (“friendsters”).
how have qualitative methods evolved cont d2
How have qualitative methods evolved? (cont’d)
  • People have the ability to connect with one another over distances like never before.
  • The power of social interactions and their impact on marketing decisions has multiplied exponentially.
  • We need to adapt our approaches to capture this new dynamic.

“Six out of ten (60%) people reported that they are likely to use social media websites to pass along information they receive online. Additionally, two‐thirds of consumers agree that recommendations from other people online are valuable, credible, and could influence their perceptions of a brand, and hence, influence their purchase decision.” - The Impact of Social Media on Purchasing Behavior, DEI Worldwide

what does this mean for marketers
What does this mean for marketers?
  • It means that there has been a shift in power, whereby consumer interactions with one another play a more important role in influencing what goes on within the “black box”.
  • Marketing programs need to consider this dynamic by:
    • Adopting bottom-up thinking.
    • Thinking more about “social influence marketing” (™ Razorfish).
  • Researchers need to:
    • Consider research subjects as stakeholders in an ongoing process.
    • Identifying strategies to tap into the conversations and learn from them.
    • Adapt approaches to better reflect the changing nature of interactions that affect consumer behaviour.
connecting through online communities
Connecting through online communities
  • Purpose-driven online communities represent one new method to better capture today’s social interactions.
  • They utilize tools that enable people to interact in a manner that is similar to what they encounter through social media sites.
  • They involve larger groups of people, but are more controlled than public online communities.
why use online communities
Why use online communities?

“People know me as a quiet person and someone who likes to keep to herself, however I have a lot of opinions. I think that this is a perfect opportunity for me to finally be able to express myself on issues that are important to me, and to the rest of the community. At school, to be heard, you have to be selected by the student body for different positions, and these people usually don't listen to the others outside of student council etc. I'm not overly popular at school, so I'm never voted in, so it would fantastic if I could finally be involved in something that can make a difference for the better. It's something I've been interested in for a long time.”

  • They better resemble the environment and the social influences that affect decisions.
  • They encourage participation by more people.
  • They generate unanticipated discussions, things that you might not think to ask.
  • They enable you to see how things evolve over time.
  • “Your set up worked really well with my working schedule. Most of all, I really like the fact that one can be more open and frank without being too self-conscious of what you have to say in an in-person discussion format.”
  • “I enjoyed this forum for meeting as I can involve myself when it is convenient for me and it joins people / ideas from all parts of Canada without any of us having to go anywhere or be on the phone. I am currently typing this message in my pj’s! “
why use online communities a case study
Why use online communities? – a case study
  • Early in 2008, HBS Marketing and Phase 5created a new approach to engaging youth audiences in conversations to help shape important social marketing initiatives and programs. We called it “The Voice”.
  • Unlike traditional research approaches, which often take place in a contrived environment, the Voice provided youth with an opportunity to engage one another in an environment that is respectful, rewarding, empowering, anonymous, free from peer influence, and safe.
  • To validate the approach, we conducted a pilot conversation with youth on behalf of the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) to understand their attitudes and behaviour towards healthy eating.
case study healthy eating among youth cont d
Case study – healthy eating among youth (cont’d)
  • Through the discussion, youth identified and prioritized issues, and then discussed solutions related to:
    • The Relative Accessibility of Junk Food
    • The Relative Attractiveness of Junk Food
    • The Influence of the People Around Them 
    • Our Society's Portrayal of 'Thin' Equating to Beauty and Health
    • Lack of a Consistent Motivational Message
    • ‘Inconsistent Truths

Case study – healthy eating among youth (cont’d)

What we set out

to do

Some unanticipated conversations

case study healthy eating among youth cont d1
Case study – healthy eating among youth (cont’d)

““Informed OPHA about current awareness and knowledge of healthy eating and the obstacles faced (personal and environmental.)”

  • “Impressed by the specifics of the content produced and the level of depth the conversation was able to achieve.”

“Conversation offered some surprising recommendations and ideas – e.g.. the choice of venue was magazines and not TV to get healthy eating messages to youth.”

“The youth led ideas around barriers to eating healthy and talked about solutions such as subsidizing food, and making healthier food easier to access, appealing, etc. These will be included into future strategies.”

what are the proper uses
What are the proper uses?

Communities are good …

  • Where the discussion benefits from group interaction
  • When the format is a natural for the audience
  • When the topic is more sensitive and can benefit from anonymity
  • When iterative discussion can lead to solutions
  • To determine how opinions or attitudes might evolve over time, through social interaction

But they are not as well-suited…

  • When you need to see the emotional reaction
  • When the topic is very complex and you need to explain concepts in an iterative manner
what are the keys to success
What are the keys to success?
  • Assign a community manager who develops a rapport with members.
  • Set clear guidelines for the discussion.
  • Get people talking to one another, not just responding to the moderator.
  • Make it interesting, keep them engaged.
  • “Thank you for organizing this. While reading some of my peers’ posts I was able to add more to my knowledge of [topic]. The questions were able to challenge my approach to [topic]. More ideas have been formulated.”

“Reading that other kids have the exact same opinions as me was really neat. I also learned stuff about myself and made my thoughts on the subjects clear to me.”

what are the keys to success1
What are the keys to success?
  • Make the tool usable.
  • Keep it real, but monitor to ensure the discussion stays on an even keel.
  • Treat people as real stakeholders.
  • Incent them to participate throughout the discussion.
  • Ensure the organization commits to the relationship.
  • “I would love to know more about how our information was utilized and how everything is progressing.”
  • ““It didn't take long at all and it gave me something to do while I was on the internet. plus it gave me $!””
lessons for the future
Lessons for the Future
  • Just as disruptions in society affect the nature of human interactions, so too must we seek to capture the changing nature of these interactions in the methods that we use.
    • This doesn’t always imply throwing out old methods (e.g. ethnography).
  • The field of “social influence marketing” is emerging, and we need to turn our attention to how research can be used to understand the effect that social interactions have on brands, products, programs, attitudes, etc..
  • The relationship between organizations and the audiences they serve is changing, and the manner in which we engage people needs to change too.
  • As methods such as online communities emerge, we need to establish what works and what doesn’t, the efficacy of the information generated.
lessons for the future cont d
Lessons for the Future (cont’d)
  • The community method (and other similar methods) blur the lines between information gathering and education/communication. Do we need to redefine ourselves?
  • We need to monitor developments such as Twitter and the iPhone (and other wireless devices) to assess the extent to which the reach of social interactions expands.

Doug Church


Phase 5

(613) 241-7555 ext. 101

Gen Lamorie-Wallace


Phase 5

(613) 241-7555 ext. 110