I’ve just been reading this Research Live contribution from Forrester analyst Tamara Barber, entitled “Market research catches up with Web 2.0”. Tamara confidently asserts that “it’s time for the industry to embrace online communities as a research tool.”
I’m constantly irritated by this assumption that the research industry has yet to wake up to the possibilities presented by “web 2.0”, or that we are somehow failing to grasp its significance. Why does our industry seem to get singled out for this kind of patronising, ill-informed advice? Are there people telling the newspaper business that it’s time to consider desktop publishing rather than all that fiddly typesetting, or suggesting to retailers that they might want to throw away those ancient tills and invest in a decent EPOS system?
But Tamara is sure we all have a problem, and she thinks she might have seen the way forward: “Clearly, it’s time for our industry to innovate, and no doubt companies like BrainJuicer … and others are teaching the rest of us how to think outside the radio button online survey and adopt the next evolution of online market research.” Speak for yourself Tamara. It’s clearly going to be an exhilarating and slightly daunting journey for you, but we wish you luck.
However, there’s one thing that bothers Tamara even more than the prospect of designing online research that doesn’t include radio buttons. And that’s what to call these new online social thingamejigs.
Forrester has apparently suggested the rather catchy “MROC”. Clearly this was the product of quite a few committee meetings. “I’ve been privy to some debates about the acronym and some details about the definition,” gushes Tamara.
I find all of this rather depressing. And it’s not really Tamara’s fault – her article is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. At Essential we’ve been designing and developing online communities pretty much since our inception. We don’t really care what the collective noun is, nor do we see this as a trade-off between ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ research. But we do know that our online communities, when appropriate, add an important new dimension to our existing conversations with audiences as well as presenting entirely new ways for audiences to come together to build ideas, debate, design, reflect and feed back.
No doubt there are some agencies who feel that they need to catch up. But so much of this tedious hand-wringing seems to be borne out of a desire to be “innovative” or to follow the herd, rather than a real appreciation of the fundamentally new ways that audiences are using technology to shape and taking ownership of brands. None of us is driving this revolution. Some, it would seem, are trying to hang onto its coat tails. The rest of us are just happy taking part. And that, as they say, is what counts.