Flash Research Vs Mrocs

Flash research is fresher than ongoing online communities

Tom Woodnutt

Tom Woodnutt

Feeling Mutual

Tom Woodnutt is a planner and qualitative researcher with over 16 years in the industry. He works at the intersection of digital, insight and strategy. Tom has helped many agencies learn how to design research that is more inspiring for both clients and participants. He has also been digital skills trainer for the AQR (Association of Qualitative Researchers). 

It’s been around ten years since MROCs (Market Research Online Communities) exploded on the scene. They disrupted the status quo because they offered a trade-off between research that is faster and enjoys economies of scale (since participants are pre-recruited), while also being slightly less valid (since participants are engaged by the brand repeatedly over time and they complete multiple projects that could make them less representative of your typical customer).

For this reason, I think that conducting multiple, ad hoc projects using Behavioural Recruitment™ powered by Facebook to recruit new participants each time represents a fresher alternative. The universe of people willing to make an ad hoc piece of feedback is far greater than those interested in repeated engagement over time. So you have a bigger and more typical pool of people to recruit from. Moreover, it  can be liberating removing the pressure on an internal insight team to have to keep on engaging people.

MROCs are a trade-off between flexibility and validity

For many companies, this trade-off is worth it. As a pragmatist, I also think that ‘good enough’ research is often ‘good enough’ (the clue’s in the name). That said, ongoing online research communities come at a high cost: not just methodologically but financially and logistically. They cost a lot because you must invest in the community management technology as well as the resource for ongoing participant management. While this might pay off for clients who use it enough and are willing to do less scientifically pure insight work, it’s still a risk.

MROCs are expensive

Rather than investing tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds in building expensive online communities that cost a lot to set up, manage, and run and face the nagging sense participants are over exposed and so under-representative, it’s worth considering a more agile approach - ‘flash research’.

Flash research gets fresh insight fast

‘Flash research’ is an approach to getting insight that is fast (within hours rather than days) and light (shorter surveys and online qual discussions) like MROCs. However, it is also fresher and so potentially more valid because each time it involves new participants who have never done research before. This is achieved by recruiting participants through social media using Behavioural Recruitment™ to find people based on their real behaviour and interests.

To deliver this does still involve proper planning (to have a recruitment screener built, an agreed set of segments to target, a pre-set format for reporting and a team of consultants on hand to design, analyse and report on each study if required). Costs are significantly lower compared to MROCs while also being fresher. The investment is more in getting fresh sample and quality consultancy rather than big technology licences or management fees.

Get in touch to find out more about flash research tom@feelingmutual.com

Hugh Carling, Co-founder of Liveminds, and I recently presented a paper on Behavioural Recruitment™ and Flash research at IIEX 2017 EU conference in Amsterdam. The paper reveals how Facebook's hyper-targeted advertising enables you to recruit people based on what they do, not just what they say. In case you missed it, check out this summary and download the full paper, including case studies.


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