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Private on-line virtual communities

Dedicated online communities are used to build dialogue with customers. In specific forms they can be used for market research (MROC - market research online communities) and a source of ideas and feedback. Communities can be run via standard social media platforms or using chat or webinar type platforms, but for on-going development, private communities add security and privacy and aim to be more long term.

Our combined Cxoice-Notanant system is an example of a generalised virtual community for market research and is used both for live community groups, but also available for use for market research including integration with our surveying tools.

We describe a private virtual community as a group of people or customers that come together to exchange ideas and information usually recruited on behalf of the business.

As businesses move towards a cloud or internet based customer management system, the easier it becomes to extend this towards a full-featured community system, and not just a simple account management platform. A community system includes aspects for two-way communication (eg chat, forum and discussion). In addition, the same platform can be used as the base for surveys, webinars and other forms of communication.

The community can act as a sounding board, and a means of sharing and discussing aspects of products or service with a group of customers in a confidential setting. In other circumstances, a private virtual community can also be used to create a market for subsidiary services. For instance, design software runs a community that is able to share and sell designs.

A specific implementation of virtual communities is what have become known as MROCs. These are panels of respondents recruited specifically to a company or a project or product area that are then used as the basis of longtitudinal studies and research often with ongoing discussions or raising issues as they emerge in the marketplace.

One use of MROCs is for co-collaboration projects where customers become directly involved in the process of creating a new product or service acting as a source of inspiration and a sounding board to internal designers and developers. With access to a group of customers, design and development teams can use agile research to test-design-retest new product and services, or new functions.

Building a community is much more than just recruiting people to join. There has to be something to do after sign up and some reason to keep coming back. The membership needs to be kept fresh and up-to-date for instance. Managing the community is thus more than just technology, and requires active and ongoing engagement.

For help and advice on virtual communities and MROCs contact

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