5 Success Factors of an Online Community in its 10th Year

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At IIeX North America in Austin, Stephen Thompson of Recollective, Tiffany Ng of Experian, and Holly O’Neill of Talking Business LLC shared five key success factors for Experian’s online community, voicesHUB, now going on its tenth year. Holly O’Neill was instrumental in convincing Experian to start the community in 2010, in order to “to hold meaningful, authentic, research-led conversations with their members.”

The key success factors that have contributed to the community’s longevity:

  1. Get cultural and leadership buy-in – Ten years ago they had to make the case for talking to customers, that customer centricity was vital “culturally and strategically,” and that “quick, agile, and actionable insights are necessary in a fast-changing market.” Leaders recognized that the community would be a way to “listen to members and have a pulse on their needs.”
  2. Understand the relevance of qual – Recognize qualitative research’s place among other methodologies, as a tool for exploring brand, product, and member experiences.
  3. Take the research to the next level – “Over the last 9 years, voicesHUB has grown. Now running on Recollective, it includes more topics, more exercises, and more members than ever before,” Holly said. “We’ve had three different platforms: Every time we change platforms, it is to change our game, to up our level, to talk more consistently with consumers, to increase member engagement, and to get more actionable assets. Now we have a broader set of qual and quant task types for projective exercises.” Key to the most recent platform change was the rise of mobile: 46% of members now use the community via mobile, making it vital to offer a seamless mobile experience. Holly added, “fielding research-on-research ups our game” and includes learning about members’ likes and dislikes and identifying topics, tasks, and research that resonate. This has also identified educational content that members want.
  4. Find a moderator who can provide a consistent foundation –Tiffany emphasized the value of having the same moderator. “Holly has been with us for 9+ years as a strategic partner. This consistent foundation amplifies research success. Her moderating style and knowledge provide consistency to propel agile implementation.”
  5. Close the loop – Provide feedback that leads to actions and success.

The community allows Experian to embrace agile research. For Experian Boost, they had three sprints with the product roadmap to iteratively evolve the offering. In sprint 1, they started with black and white concepts, using a heat-map highlighter for participants to mark those aspects that appealed to them. In sprint 2, they used fill-in-the-blank exercises and polls, to probe and uncover motivations. In sprint 3, they offered community members the chance to try the service prior to launch, as part of pre-launch testing.

“The outcome? The community has enabled Experian to break through the crowded noise and clutter of marketing content, uncovering hidden consumer needs and strategically innovative solutions to ever-changing business challenges – all based on insights supported by authentic, in-depth feedback.”

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