Static Online Communities and How to Leverage for Cost Effective Data Acquisition

The objective of this report is to provide strategic guidelines for successfully utilizing static online communities (i.e. web blogs, message boards, newsgroups) for marketing research. The basis for these guidelines is a study of static community communications done by al berrios & co. during the summer of 2004. The study, which included surveying and observation, provided us with an understanding of the environment and consumer who uses it.

Why Use Static Online Communities for Data Acquisition?

Using our guidelines you will spend less time and money researching consumers that do not qualify for your research. However, to do so you will have to change your thinking about how you define your segment because as you will see the internet plays by different rules. The point is that you will be spending money on researching consumers that are more relevant to your decision. Incidence is high.

You may argue that redefining your segment will not be accepted by top executives or shareholders. The results that this shift in thinking will bring can be expressed in more traditional terms. For example, in our survey on a Harley Davidson related forum (1) targeting Harley Davidson owners, the demographic information collected on the Harley consumers was similar to the demographic information of Harley consumers provided at

  Static Online Community Harley-Davidson
Gender 100% Male 90% Male
Median Age 40 years old 45 years old
Median Income $69K $80K

What this means is that if for the purposes of online research you define your segment creatively as Harley Davidson owners, you will have reliable and communicable results.


1) Define your target segment along consumer interests and lifestyle traits.
During our surveying, the most responsive forums were the smaller communities designated by a common interest, such as a particular TV show, popular movie, or even product categories like cell phones. Larger communities such as those at Yahoo! have similar attribute with 89.8% of static communities discussing consumer-related issues that ranged from sports and recreation to online dating. Defining your target market creatively according to their interests and lifestyles will provide you with a roadmap to help you navigate the many static communities on the Internet.

2) Utilize static communities that are small and defined by a specific interest/discussion topic.
Small communities are often a result of a specific interest/discussion topic definition. And again, our surveying was most successful on small forums that had a narrow definition of their discussion topic (with ratio of 2 to 1, views on our threads to postings by users. Respondents on larger communities were often vulgar, puerile and a waste of time. Try to avoid larger boards.

3) Always identify yourself as a researcher and state your purpose in understandable language.
Consumers don't like to be lied to, especially if it is in a place they feel comfortable. A large part of why users of static communities are a part of those communities is that they feel comfortable there. Lying to them will not only end your research and cost you money, but will lead consumers to develop negative feelings toward online marketing researchers.

4) Always start your research by addressing the interest/discussion topic before asking specific questions about your research purpose.
Forum communities are like cliques. It may seem impossible to enter the community and leave with strong research. However, if you talk to users about what interests them before you ask them to talk about what interests you, you will be successful. Asking users to talk about their interests is also helpful to you because you can decipher if the respondent actually fits into this community and therefore your target definition.

5) Keep your communication authentic.
To be authentic you must be straightforward. Being straightforward, however, will lead you into trouble as you are most likely not personally interested in learning about the community and its users. So in order to be straightforward and not end up in trouble, you must learn about the community and their interests through secondary research and observation. Once you have done that you can be craft authentic communications.

Write to Aankit Patel at





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