A MROC is a fancy-sounding acronym for a “Market Research Online Community.” I wish I could say that PluggedIN coined the term, but that credit goes in part to Forrester Research in their report on the space in April 2008 titled “Will Web 2.0 Transform Market Research?” If you haven’t already, I’d recommend buying that report for a great overview of what they are (find it here), how firms are using them and where things are heading, but I digress…
The report defines a MROC as “captive interactive groups of people online joined together by a common interest, which are systematically harvested for qualitative market research purposes.” I think that definition fits well at a very high-level, but in reality there are a ton of additional details that go into the definition.
For example, the “groups of people” vary in size from small-ish groups of 50-1,000 people to very large groups of 1,000 – 10,000 people. The “common interest” ranges from a shared enthusiasm for a brand and its’ products/services to a shared hobby or demographic background (i.e., Millennials, Gen X, etc…).
The telling part of the definition is the inclusion of qualitative market research and the purposeful exclusion of any reference to quantitative research. There are debates as to whether a community can really serve a “hybrid” role of gather qualitative and quantitative feedback (which I intend to cover in future posts). The key is to realize that these communities are ideally suited for qualitative feedback, but with the right design they can be used successfully for hybrid qualitative and quantitative feedback.
I think that about sums up the general definition of a MROC, and I hope I provided enough to give you a general idea of what one is all about… Future posts should help clarify a lot more with some thought provoking ideas about how they can be used.