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MROC – Engagement Fuelled Communities

About a decade or so ago we embarked on a transition from traditional telephone and face to face methods to the world of online research. D&M was one of the first agencies to embrace the new technologies with our very first online survey in 1998 and our first online focus group in 2002.

Online research has had a phenomenal impact on our industry, particularly in the quantitative space, where permission based panels have not only reduced the cost of primary data collection but made research more accessible to a wider range of clients.

It’s hard to believe that in the space of a few short years we are already referring to these methods as Traditional Online Research. No doubt these methods, like door to door, telephone and face to face methods before them will still have their place in the brave new research world but will be augmented by even newer techniques that bring fresh and exciting opportunities for clients and researchers alike. So what’s next? The answer is MROC.

What is MROC?

 MROC stands for Market Research Online Community. So what is MROC? MROC is a type of online research community where a targeted group of people are recruited to take part in daily, weekly or monthly research activities around a shared topic of interest such as a product or category.

Those familiar with the term online community, would know that they have usually been built for the purpose of marketing or customer loyalty. Now they are being built specifically for the purpose of Market Research. Imagine a Facebook or Linked In group with additional functions like the ability to run quick polls, moderate discussions and forums with all or just some members, run simple and complex surveys and/or just listen to peer to peer discussions about your product or category. All without the privacy, security and data ownership issues of Facebook.  That’s what MROC is about.

Here are 10 things you should know about MROCs:

  1. MROCs are a purpose built closed online community of people (clients, customers, prospects, general consumers) used primarily for qualitative research purposes but also for quantitative research, depending on size.
  2. MROCs are usually themed around a specific product (branded) or category (unbranded).
  3. MROCs can be built for the short (3 months) or medium term (6 months) but are best built for the longer term (12 months plus) to really pay off.
  4. MROCs provide real time access to research respondents – they are always on and so can be used to respond quickly to any marketing intelligence requirement.
  5. MROCs include active facilitation by researchers (Community Managers & Moderators) and activities (not all research) designed to engage members in order to elicit insights on the issues that clients want to explore.
  6. MROCs use a number of different types of direct and indirect incentives for members participation – not all activities require an incentive and not all incentives need to be financial (public community praise can work very well).
  7. MROC platforms usually include both elements of Social Media (Likes, Chat, Messaging, Video and Image Posting etc) and Market Research (Discussion Forums, Polls, and Surveys).
  8. MROCs are designed to deliver research value to clients – i.e. you can run a structured and /or a focused research agenda in a faster, continuous and much more cost effective manner
  9.  MROCs by definition tend to be less representative of the general population but offer convenience and speed as their two main advantages
  10. MROCs require a fair bit of financial and time commitment especially at the building stage because they rely a lot on communication and engagement between members and moderators, but can really pay off.

D&Ms approach to MROC

D&M is again at the forefront of embracing and developing this exciting new research method. We built our first community back in 2009 and now offer a highly consultative and flexible approach to MROCs for clients.

 Some advices we give clients interested in their own research community include:

  1. An MROC needs to benefit you the client – there is no use replacing traditional and online research methods with an MROC unless you have a specific need for ongoing research
  2. An MROC will suit a client who has high level of research needs whether it is monitoring performance, innovating and/or test new product developments.
  3. Sourcing members and building your MROC is the most challenging part of process, be patient and innovative in how you develop your acquisition strategy.
  4. MROCs need regular engagement which means reaching out on a regular basis. Activities need to be planned even outside the research activity periods to keep members engaged.
  5. MROCs need refreshing – there will always be some sort of attrition with a permission based community like an MROC. These need to be topped up continuously to maintain numbers and keep the community fresh.

An MROC can bring great benefit:

  1. An MROC provides real time access to your clients and prospects – it’s always on and there for you so it’s faster and can cut your research cycle down significantly.
  2. An MROC over the course of time can be significantly cheaper to running ad-hoc focus groups and surveys – it’s your panel so you are saving on recruitment, travel, venues and more
  3. An MROC brings LISTENING in addition to ASKING to the research paradigm.  Your MROC can act as a sort of 24/7 listening post which can bring new insights not previously found in point-in-time studies.
  4. An MROC brings the ability to innovate, test and fail fast at a fraction of the cost of traditional research techniques. A common scenario is the ability to test 10 new products / ads or other concepts with a smaller group of people – eliminate a majority quickly and then refine and test a smaller set of say 3 concepts either with the larger community or a traditional panel.
  5. Finally an MROC can be used to collaborate with members on new product and communication ideas.

Setting up an MROC requires planning and persistence – here are some of the steps we take at D&M to ensure you have a successful MROC

  1. Planning – what type of community do you want? - Branded (product based) or unbranded (category based). Who will qualify for the community? How long will the community run and how will it look and feel. D&M can work with you to ensure that your planning upfront pays off.
  2. Platform – there are a lot of platforms out there for MROCs, each with their features and costs. Understanding what you want to get out of your MROC is critical to which platform to use. D&M is not tied to any one platform so can provide advice on which is best for you.
  3. Recruitment – Once we know who you want in your community we can go about the business of recruiting respondents. Respondents can be recruited from a number of sources including customer lists, social media pages, direct campaigns, panel aggregators etc.
  4. Building – the first few weeks of an MROC are critical and our moderators work hard to ensure that every contribution and interaction is nurtured and leveraged. Members are encouraged to participate and complemented when they do, either through public praise or a direct reward.  Creating advocates for the community is essential to its success as these eventually develop into community elders who will help the community flourish and grow.
  5. Monitoring – Our Moderators generally drop in to the community on a regular basis to check what’s been happening and to kick start conversations between members and keep them engaged. Part of this process is the listening and learning – and looking out for relevant user generated content which can be fed back to you on a regular basis.
  6. Start Researching – once a community of even a few hundred is built you can start more formal research activities such as bulletin board style focus groups, forums, posting, polls and surveys.

MROCs are not for all research buyers but provide an exciting and valuable approach to research that is different to anything we have seen in the past.

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