Online panels: how to retain community participants

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On more than one occasion, we have talked about the importance of having a community. Maintaining a healthy relationship brings significant benefits to companies. One of the most common benefits is having a wide selection of individuals to participate in various market research studies.  For example, when conducting different online panels, it’s not very common to keep the same people for various panels. However, by investing time and resources in nurturing an online community, it becomes considerably easier to retain users for online panels.

What Are Online Panels?

Before we dive into how to attract users, let’s make it clear what an online panel is, shall we? 

An online panel is basically an online community, an active database. Furthermore, these panels are formed by actively seeking out their members, resulting in very high-quality information. 

It’s important to note that these are quite dynamic communities, meaning the number of members fluctuates quite a bit. Also, not every group of people taking online surveys constitutes a panel. Panelists are individuals willing to participate in various activities offered by the panel, including surveys, focus groups, consumer diaries, and many other different activities.

 

It’s worth mentioning that for online panels to be successful, it’s highly recommended to provide rewards to their users. 

 

Attracting Users for Online Panels

Now that we’ve clarified what a panel is, let’s figure out how to form one. There are various ways and communication channels to attract users.

 

The Website, a Good Place to Start

For instance, one of the most common and passive methods is through the company’s website. After all, the company’s website receives a significant amount of traffic (or should), and having a «Join Us» section or something similar can catch the attention of several visitors. Behind that «join» button, a simple form can be placed, and later, follow-ups can be done.

 

Social Media: A Goldmine

Another fantastic recruitment tool is social media. If the company has active social media accounts (which it should), the number of followers translates into potential panelists. Moreover, among those followers, those who engage more with the brand are particularly interesting.

 

Email Marketing

Over the years, the company has likely built up a database of email addresses from various people. Or perhaps, various email marketing campaigns have been conducted over the years. Well, that database can be effectively used to attract new users for the online panel. 

 

How to Keep Online Panel Participants Motivated

It’s true that the number of users fluctuates in market research panels, and it’s important to recruit new users. However, keeping those users is always more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. 

Here are some tips:

 

Target the Right Audience

As always, it’s essential to attract the right audience, the target audience of the brand or company. If a panel is composed of individuals who don’t belong to the target audience, they won’t last long, and their opinions won’t be interesting/relevant. 

 

Create a Sense of Belonging

Loyalty is the key to keeping any user motivated. Often, that sense of belonging is what makes a panelist stay for a long time. To achieve that loyalty, it’s usually recommended to create high-quality content, whether on social media or the website. 

 

Make Them Feel Heard

Many times, there’s a tendency to maintain a one-way relationship with users of online panels. Therefore, it’s essential to remember that for a panel to be successful, communication must be two-way. In other words, the company also has to listen to what its users have to say. Making them feel heard can do a lot for a company/panelist relationship. 

 

The Role of the Administrator

The panel administrator will be the face of the company, the person responsible for representing the brand. That’s why choosing this role with due attention is imperative. They should maintain constant communication with panelists, ensure that all panel members feel comfortable, and be able to guide users from simpler tasks to more complex ones, while also noticing who stops responding. 

 

Planning

As always, the more everything is planned out, the better. All activities should be scheduled, and creating relevant content for panelists (and the study, of course) is crucial. When planning activities, it’s highly recommended to innovate, as surprising panelists helps with retention. 

 

Bonuses and Incentives

People don’t work for free, and panelists are no different. Consider an online panel as an exchange between the company and its users. In other words, providing small rewards for completing tasks ensures that panelists don’t tire quickly, encourages participation, and strengthens the relationship with the company. 

Using a points system to earn products from the brand is very common.

 

Plan the Community for Long-Term Research

If an online community is functioning well, with a high participation rate, why limit yourself to short-term work? In such cases, it’s not a bad idea to make several changes in planning to ensure continued work with a community in the long term.

Update date 22 November, 2023

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