Approach to online communities

In recent years, the online platform has grown in strength and presence as a tremendously versatile and dynamic tool for fieldwork.

It is originally used to obtain ethnographic information (consumer habits and attitudes from their natural environment and in real time). It also permits gathering information for a very wide range of objectives and projects: social trends; consumer ideas; fidelity and satisfaction; concept testing; product testing; advertising pre-test and post-test; etc. There is practically no objective that can resist this tool.

One of its greatest attractions is that it allows the client to actively monitor the platform in real time. Clients can observe participants’ answers, the work of the moderator and suggest new questions, optimizations or launch hypotheses throughout fieldwork. In international projects, there are platforms that translate what participants write into English, thus facilitating monitoring.

This flexibility is achieved thanks to the platform launching a programmed task guide that allows including questions along the way depending on the answers generated.

In each project different types of tasks can be designed and integrated (open-ended questions, closed questions, presentation of stimuli, ethnographic journal,…), both individual (discourse not biased by the group) or group oriented (discourse that goes beyond the concepts), depending on each project and client’s needs and objectives.

It is also interesting to note that with this tool we have the possibility to work simultaneously in various countries and provinces and carry out all kinds of segmentation. Furthermore, the duration and size of the sample are easily adjustable.

Platform monitoring by moderators, observers and clients is normally carried out with a PC due to ease in the use of the data. This monitoring can also be done through a smartphone, which facilitates access to the platform 24/7.

On the other hand, the online platform provides us with continuous, fluid and flexible communication with participants. They can answer from an APP on their smartphones and / or from their PCs.

The smartphone, fully integrated in consumers’ daily routine, facilitates participation and offers us information in real time. It is ideal for tasks where we need participants to share their experiences every time they are experiencing a certain event. While the PC is especially advantageous for elderly people or those who have difficulty. Additionally, it is much easier for tasks that require writing long texts.

Another of the great advantages of the online platform is that with it we achieve a 100% participation rate since if any participant drops out, they can be replaced by a new one able to complete all tasks even though they have started collaborating on the platform days later. On the other hand, participants feel rewarded knowing their contributions are read and are protagonists for a few days, which reinforces their involvement.

For analysis purposes, the online platform incorporates data extraction tools that generate reports with various types of output: texts, photos, videos, heat maps, statistics, word clouds, collages, graphs, etc. These reports can be created by segments, facilitating analysis of the peculiarities of each target.

Finally, it should be noted that online platforms allow us to detect “key players”: participants who stand out or who are very inspiring, whom we can interview in depth if the objectives of the project so require.

If to all we have just explained we add the new reality caused by Covid-19, in which social distancing seems to have come to stay for a good length of time, the online platform (along with other tools such as the telephone interviews, online interviews, online groups,…) allows us to cut distances and continue to keep a finger on the pulse of society and the consumer. A consumer who, during the lockdown experience, has resorted to the use of this type of telematic tools not only to work or communicate but also to feel and “be” accompanied.


Susana Lasvignes

Qualitative Trend Seeker & Analyst