I was giving a demo of our research community capabilities the other day when out of the blue someone asked me – “Why can’t we just set up an online research community in Facebook?” Wow. This is a complicated question to answer, especially when I haven’t finished my x-large Dunkin Donuts coffee for the day!
I’ll be honest – the question took me back a bit because they actually had a very valid point. Facebook is a great way to connect for ongoing customer insights, and to even create something of an ongoing research community. The people are there, the “essential” technology is there and (chances are) your company already has a presence there – so why not just use Facebook for your online research community?
As with most things in life, it’s not that simple. And I’m not just saying this because I build online research communities for a living Read on for reasons why Facebook might not make the most sense as a venue for your online research community.
Reason #1 – Privacy matters
One of the biggest reasons people build a private online community separate from other initiatives is that they want some degree of privacy. For example, they may want to test concepts that have yet to come to market, or brainstorm new products. These companies generally do not want competitors to be privy to these conversations. Facebook is great for conversations that build on the social/viral aspect of the site, but less useful for carefully targeted and private conversations.
Reason #2 – Recruitment & knowledge of participants
If you set up a group or page in Facebook, you know whatever members choose to reveal on their public profiles. You may be able to do a little additional profiling through surveys, but it is then difficult to associate that data back to participants for future activities (at least within the site). When you create your own private online community, that problem largely goes away (depending on the software you’re using and how you have designed your screener). Rather than relying on what people reveal, you can ask much more as part of the screening process and automatically relate that data back to participants for targeted research activities in the community. Just be sure not to violate any research codes or privacy policies in the process!
Reason #3 – You run the show
When you create an online research community, you control everything about the community, from the way it looks to how members interact. You control the frequency in which members are contacted, how they are contacted and what is said in each communication. You also control the frequency, type and depth of research activities. In a public setting like Facebook, you can control some elements, but are ultimately at the whim of the way Facebook is designed and used. Having that degree of control in your own private online community can be very helpful when you’re looking to get targeted answers quickly.
Reason #4 – You “own” the show
Content ownership and control of data can be major issues when it comes to an online research community (as well as with online communities in general). A carefully crafted set of terms and conditions that set your own terms for members can avoid many legal hassles. Run your online research community on Facebook, however, and you’re subject to their terms and conditions. Try running that by your legal team to see which option they prefer
Are there any reasons to choose Facebook for an online research community?
In the interest of being fair, there are a few reasons why Facebook can be great for research, including:
- The built-in pool of participants.
- The ability to know about participants and even “sniff out” the pros before they arrive.
- It’s cheap!
There are a few other reasons I didn’t mention in this post, since I’m planning on writing more about it in a separate post. For now, I hope this helped give you a sense of why not (or why) to pursue Facebook as an option for your online research community.
So what have I missed?
Is there something here I’m not considering? Please don’t hesitate to comment below and let me know what I’m missing!