Best Practices 

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Market Segmentation in Online Communities: Does it Matter?

Manila S. Austin, Ph.D., Vice President, Research, Communispace Corporation   and Clay Voorhees, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Marketing, Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University

It is easy to understand why after investing heavily in a custom segmentation strategy, companies would want their online communities to represent those segments. But does segmentation really matter when it comes to online communities? If so, how much does it matter, and when is it worth it? And, how can companies realize value from their custom segmentation schemes?

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Beyond the Bull’s-Eye: Building Meaningful Relationships in the Age of Big Data

Katrina Lerman, Senior Researcher, Communispace

Targeted marketing, while more precise than mass marketing, is still inherently one-way, backwards-looking, and full of guesswork. And, often, it’s just plain wrong, or worse, disturbingly accurate, signaling to consumers the presence of a thriving personal data market just out of sight. This study provides the marketplace with research from a broad range of consumers, to help companies better inform their personalized marketing efforts and the ways in which they gather, use, and share personal data. Read this research report to learn the serious risks for companies who don’t respect their customers’ wishes for privacy and control. The report also describes the opportunity for companies that are ready to engage with consumers on their terms and re-negotiate power in the vendor-customer relationship.

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The Collaborative Advantage: Why and How Active Consumer Collaboration is an Essential Partner to Big Data

Julie Wittes Schlack, Senior Vice President of Innovation, Communispace

The Collaborative Advantage analyzes why it’s crucial to marry Big Data with conscious, collaborative methods; to couple machine-driven methods that rely on volume, velocity, and data variety with interpersonal approaches relying on empathy and the uniquely human capacity to make meaning and to tell stories.

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The Rules of Community Engagement: A Study of the Motivations for Participation in Online Communities

Manila S. Austin, Ph.D., Vice President of Research, Communispace and Brian J. Baldus, Ph.D., California State University, Sacramento

We partnered with a researcher team from Michigan State University (MSU) to better understand what motivates participation in online brand communities — both public and private. The MSU team conducted independent research on Communispace communities, looking at a range of our clients across industries, and compared their findings to benchmarks gathered from a range of other online brand communities. In this report we examine the MSU team’s findings, and present key insights and implications, formulated as “rules of engagement.”

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Measuring What Matters: Emotion Centric Explorer

Communispace: Julie Wittes Schlack and Ed Chao

At Communispace, we use an innovative methodology called Emotion Centric ExplorerTM. The methodology utilizes free association to enable participants to reflect, recognize, and describe their feelings without constraint or judgment. Like a freewheeling conversation with a psychotherapist, what participants choose to talk about, and how they talk about it, provide deep insights into their emotional state and underlying beliefs. By uncovering consumers’ underlying emotions, Emotion Centric Explorer provides invaluable understanding of a concept’s strengths and weaknesses.

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Invested: Engaging Hearts and Minds through Prediction Markets

Communispace: Julie Wittes Schlack

At Communispace, we have been actively exploring ways to incorporate some principles of “gamification” into the concept development, refinement, and testing that’s done in our private, online communities. We know from vast experience that when people are motivated to invest more in answering questions – when their hearts as well as minds are engaged in a task – the quality of their responses is likely to be better. And we hypothesized that a Prediction Market, in which participants invest points or play money in their predictions about which concepts are most likely to succeed in the market, would do just that.

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Think Outside the (E-Suggestion) Box: Co-Creation in Private Online Communities

Communispace: Michael Jennings and Julie Wittes Schlack

The paper outlines our approach to customer-driven ideation as an alternative to other co-creation and crowdsourcing strategies. We'll also illustrate our Informed Ideation methodology through a study we conducted to uncover unmet needs and generate consumer ideas within the home-office product category.

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Research Report: Does Community Membership Lead To Positive Bias?

Communispace: Manila Austin

In 2005, we designed a study to explore and address a common concern in the marketplace at the time: Namely, that online community members would become brand fans as a result of interacting with each other and sponsoring companies over time, and that, as brand fans, their feedback would be overly-positive, systematically skewed, and untrustworthy.

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The "64% Rule:" What Real Customer Engagement Looks Like

Communispace: Julie Wittes Schlack

This study of participation trends in 246 Communispace communities comprising 86,275 members, explores the variables that influence participation and customer engagement. 

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10 Best Practices for Managing Online Communities

Communispace: Jen Adams, Siobhan Dullea, Andrea Evans, and Beth McCarthy

Based on our collective experience, we’ve developed ten best practices for managing private, online communities.

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Beyond the "Other" Box: Giving Customers an Independent Voice in Your Community

Communispace: Katrina Lerman

Acknowledging that customer conversations are beyond one's control can be both a difficult and liberating step for marketers. But over the course of recruiting and facilitating more than 250 small, private online communities for a wide range of clients, Communispace Corporation has long argued that organic conversations between customers provide companies with invaluable insight into their lives, needs, and concerns – and do so in a much less static and controlled fashion than traditional, one-way methods. Likewise, allowing customers to initiate dialogue both with each other and with the online community's sponsoring company is a more genuine and strategic form of brand involvement than limiting “customer control” to a one-time, closed-ended encounter like letting them choose from a list of flavors or package designs.

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Creating a Culture of Participation

Communispace: Manila Austin and Katrina Lerman

Within the growing world of online customer communities, some endeavors are more successful and vibrant than others. We at Communispace wondered how the traditional notion of “survey fatigue” would translate to online communities, and if it might have an impact on which communities continue to thrive. 

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The Fifth 'P' of Marketing: Participation—Size Matters

Communispace: Katrina Lerman and Manila Austin

In this new era of "conversational marketing", the measure for engagement in a community isn't the number of people logging on. Rather, it's how actively people participate in the community. Original research from Communispace investigates and analyzes member participation in private online communities and demonstrates that size matters in generating high rates of customer engagement with a sponsoring company or brand. When a few hundred members are participating on a regular basis, the quantity and quality of the content is deeper and richer than from large public sites, with a dramatically more rewarding member experience. This study looks at participation along three dimensions: frequency-how often members contribute; volume-number of contributions made by each member; and the bystander or lurker rate-those who contribute vs those who observe.

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Size Matters: When Insight is the Goal, Small Communities Deliver Big Results

Communispace: Manila Austin, Michael Jennings, Julie Wittes Schlack, and Katrina Lerman

As brand “communities” of all shapes and sizes become an expected element in the marketer’s toolkit, an increasingly urgent question is: How can companies use customer communities to the greatest effect?
When the goal is to achieve deep customer insight and relationship, smaller, private and branded communities are a more effective strategy than large, public ones. In this paper we demonstrate how smaller communities outperform larger ones in many respects crucial to this objective.
In a companion paper, “Meeting Business Needs by Meeting Social Needs in Small Communities: Why Size Matters,” we offer some insight into why small, private and branded communities are compelling—and necessary—for consumers and marketers alike. 

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Meeting Business Needs by Meeting Social Needs in Small Communities: Why Size Matters

Communispace: Julie Wittes Schlack, Michael Jennings, and Manila Austin

This paper draws on the social science literature to present hypotheses about why smaller online communities fulfill individuals’ range of social needs, and in doing so, are more effective than large communities for gaining breakthrough customer insights and building long term relationships with customers.

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