Issue 18

In this issue of conduit:

1) Featured Question and Answer: Using Focus Groups?
2) Your Community Answer:  Do you feel that a focus group is worthwhile way to gain crucial information from consumers or site participants?
3) Community Voice: Community; Luxury or Necessity?

This Issue's Quote: Imagination is more important than knowledge." -Albert Einstein 

Featured Question and Answer:

"Using Focus Groups?"

This issue's questions encompasses the use of focus groups to gain site member feedback: 

"I am thinking of holding an online focus group with members to gain feedback about new services we are wishing to provide on our site. What should I consider?"

To read our response, please see "Using Focus Groups?".

Are you searching for information on a particular topic? Check out our searchable archive  of past question and answers.

Your Community Answer

Do you feel that a focus group is worthwhile way to gain crucial information from consumers or site participants?

What do you think? We want to hear from you.  

Community Voice

Community; Luxury or Necessity?

The question of luxury versus necessity is a burning one for many a web site owner across the world, especially in the current economic climate. In a downturn it is often the case that priorities shift away from some items or services which would now be deemed luxuries in favour of others which are necessities. As community specialists, of course we see the value of placing community on a site and could very easily argue that it is a necessity whatever the economic situation and not a luxury that can be dismissed.

On the other hand, we have never been ones for the "hard sell" or scare tactics such as "If you do not have community on your site, no one will ever wish to return." or "Without community your site will be stagnant, lack imagination and creativity." There are many sites which would debunk any such suggestions. However, we can responsibly provide information for site owners to make the most educated decisions based on their own needs and that of their sites.

We can certainly state from the outset that online community satisfies some very basic human needs. It does so on the global as well as the local scale by connecting people across geographical boundaries, cultural differences or demographics.

Individuals need to…

1) Gain information and support;

2) Share thoughts, experiences, ideas and opinions;

3) Belong to and identify themselves with others.

Online community provides venues where people can connect with other individuals or with organizations in order to pursue and fulfill these fundamental needs. Such connections often take place because of shared knowledge and comparable interests or backgrounds. But any commonality provides potential for community. For example, a customer with a specific product need may find themselves part of a community of others (consumers, representatives and son on) who also have had that same need or who can provide solutions to that need.

Community brings…

A sense of loyalty and bonding to a site and the services or products it provides. A consumer who feels closely connected to a company is more likely to initiate and then continue to purchase services/products from that company and participate in propagating the brand. We would like to think that we all act with what economists call perfect knowledge, that is, rationally and with complete opportunity of information. However, we tend to exhibit far more emotional and partial behaviours than this. Responses to brands and products are often in ways which can only be explained by a loyalty or bond which often arises out of a sense of togetherness, even if that togetherness is simply the sharing of a recommendation from a friend or colleague.

Similarly, community participants are more inclined to share their experiences with other consumers via word of mouth, which is a prolific form of viral marketing. For example, a potential consumer visits a software company's community with a view to gaining insight into a particular product before purchasing. Both company representatives and fellow consumers become valuable informational resources. The latter often perform a significant surrogate sales representative role via their own feedback, experience and recommendations.

In turn, those positive experiences are communicated to others and a domino effect is induced. Services and products that are talked about tend to sell.

Both prior to and post-purchase the interaction between consumers and between a consumer and the company will assist in generating sales and building long-term consumer loyalty.

Repeat visits. Community members re-visit their communities more often, by definition, and they also, according to research, are more likely to purchase and purchase in greater quantities than single-visit users.

Interactivity. Community components are an excellent way to promote services/products available on a website. Site owners can utilize conversations within chat or message boards to raise awareness of their products or services and also point members in the direction of a service/product that would be of assistance to them.

A growing resource. Community also serves as an excellent means to encourage a member’s participation to build upon site contents. This can be done in many ways, most commonly by linking articles to community areas where discussion and interaction provides excellent additional content and information for members to revisit and utilize.

Member "buy in" to the site. Members who have a place to connect and share gain a sense of belonging and are more likely to visit, revisit, purchase and recommend. This occurs especially in cases where member activities are highlighted and rewarded on a website. Not only does this encourage a member to continue to participate, but also spurs further conversation among new and regular visitors.

Ongoing Consumer Research. Community provides continuous consumer feedback - unlike a survey which might be distributed in a one-off or periodical fashion. The continuous nature of consumer responses gives companies an advantage in the development of additional services or improvement of existing ones. Companies that are equipped with this information from existing and potential consumers tend to become the recognized leaders in their field, as well as being a strong and trusted brand which is, in turn, recommended.

So, now you be the judge…. Is community a luxury or necessity? We welcome your thoughts and comments.

You can contribute to and gain valuable insights by asking a question right now:

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