As part of an article I am writing I have recently posted blogs on MROCs and Community Panels. This is the final post in that part of the draft that relates to puroposed communities, online communities set up for a purpose and and which can be utilised by market research. Again, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Brand Communities, Natural Communities, and Social Networks
Just a couple of years ago it looked as though brand communities were going to be one of the biggest things in marketing and an essential component of market research. Most conference presentations on the topic talked about MyStarbucksIdea, Dells IdeaStorm, and of course Lego’s communities. However, the growth in major brand communities seems to have stalled, perhaps showing one of the truths about social media, in general, brands have to go where the people are, the people do not go where the brands are. There will still be developments in brand communities, perhaps the entire customer base for a brand will be a ‘community’, but in the short-term they are not having a big impact on market research at the macro level.
By contrast, one area that has been showing rapid development is the growth of branded Facebook pages. Although most brands have a fairly weak presence in Facebook (in April Bright Edge estimated that 70% of the Fortune 200 brands did not have a Facebook page [http://www.brightedge.com/2011-04-18-brightedge-study-social-media-seo-optimization]), a growing of leading brands are starting to attract millions of followers. According to the list compiled by SocialBakers [http://www.socialbakers.com/blog/173-top-brands-on-facebook-disney-moving-up-to-2nd-playstation-with-100-growth/], at June 1st Coca-Cola had 29 million Facebook fans, followed by Disney with 25 million, and Starbucks with 23 million. But it is not just high involvement major/trendy brands who can do well, Oreo were fourth with 20 million and candy brand Skittles were eighth with 17 million. What sets most of these brands apart from those with a more limited Facebook presence is that they have made the effort.
Brands are at the early stages of looking at what they can achieve with their Facebook pages, some, such as UK retailer Next have used them as a sample source for research conducted away from Facebook, while others engage with fans in Facebook itself, for example in May 2011 Oreo asked “How would you describe Oreo cookies to someone who never tasted them?”, in six days they received 3,660 replies.
A growing number of organisations are looking at how they can utilise Facebook presences, with apps, marketing approaches, and some market research tools being developed specifically with Facebook pages. In terms of market research brand communities, natural communities, and Facebook communities are much less significant than MROCs and community panels, but they are growing and may become more important over the next couple of years.
In addition, organisations such as Peanut Labs (now part of Research Now) have been using social networks as a source of sample for some time and the perennial question about social networks tends to be what would happen if Facebook opened up a broad and accessible market research service? However, predictions a couple of years ago that LinkedIn would become a major player in B2B research appeared to be overstated, and were followed by LinkedIn removing its main market research service – could the same be true of Facebook?