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An insight community is a critical resource for any organization looking to make customer-centric decisions. In this Guide you’ll learn why insight communities are essential to improving customer experience and a valuable market research technique. Inside, you’ll find advice and examples of best practices for leveraging an insight community to achieve business value. If you’re considering an insight community strategy, read on to see how you can get the most from your investment and provide maximum value to your stakeholders and your insight community members.

The Ultimate Guide to Insight Communities

The Ultimate Guide to Insight Communities-1

What Is an insight community?

An insight community is a customer engagement platform companies use to uncover agile, actionable, first-party data from the right people at the right time – at scale. Deeply profiled customers are highly engaged in both the activities and the outcome of their feedback.

You can think of insight communities in the same way as customer advisory boards, research panels, and focus groups, but with an important difference. In an insight community, members agree to participate on an ongoing basis, which means you can have two-way conversations and build a detailed profile of each participant. In this way, insight communities become more valuable to brands over time, as member profiles constantly become richer and more intricate.

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Insight communities can be quite large, from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of members, allowing a brand to target queries to specific groups of customers and segment community members with ease and precision.

How do companies use insight communities?

Insight communities are an effective strategy for many types of companies, from large B2C brands to niche B2B products with specialized audiences. Any organization that wants to include customers, employees, or other critically important groups in the decision-making process can benefit from an insight community.

The scale and flexibility of insight communities make them adaptable to solve a wide range of business problems.

Brands use insight communities to:

  • Ideate and develop new products, services, and operational processes
  • Test and validate new ideas before bringing them to market
  • Identify and remove points of friction in the digital user experience or buying journey
  • Craft, refine, and target marketing and advertising campaigns

What are the benefits of insight communities?

Compared with other customer feedback channels such as social media monitoring or Voice of Customer surveys, insight communities uncover more detailed, nuanced perspectives on customer motivations and goals. Put another way, they provide the “why” behind the “what.” For example, a company might identify a potential problem with a problem or service via a broad customer survey, and then dig deeper with their insight community to understand the root cause and test potential solutions.

Many companies shift to an insight community strategy because they are dissatisfied with slow-moving, expensive third-party research strategies. With an insight community, you don’t have to wait weeks or pay to recruit a panel that fits a certain profile. You have a group of pre-vetted, opted-in research participants at the ready. You can engage them on an ongoing basis, without having to pay for each sample or each study.

Over time, your insight community becomes even more valuable because you’ll be able to go back to the same group of people for follow-up and measure change. Insight community members become deeply profiled research participants, allowing you to segment your research strategy based on demographic, psychographic, and behavioral profile attributes.

How are insight communities different from brand, social, and support communities?

The concept of “community” is gaining momentum. Many business functions rely on customer community strategies. For example:

  • Support communities are useful for deflecting service and helpdesk requests
  • User communities help users self-educate and increase product adoption
  • Brand communities develop advocates and influencers
  • Insider communities build loyalty and rewards programs

These types of communities are a good way to engage customers, but they only scratch the surface of the power of community. Here’s why: They’re mainly focused on transactional value, such as answering support questions or gaining a loyalty point for a purchase, not real relationships. Companies that focus only on these transactional communities are missing the opportunity to have a profound impact on their business by building long-term customer relationships.

Insight communities nurture deep, ongoing relationships with customers, not just transactions. They’re created and managed by a brand, versus public social media platforms that anyone can join (and where they might adopt any persona they choose). They’re safe spaces where customers feel free to share honest opinions, knowing your brand will listen and value their feedback. Because companies know who they’re interacting with, they can connect in meaningful ways to understand their customers’ needs and motivations.

How is insight community research different from traditional market research?

For many years, companies have relied on Voice of Customer surveys to gather feedback from consumers. However, in today’s uncertain and rapidly changing marketplace, that process doesn’t deliver the results brands need most, for several reasons.

Traditional survey data isn’t reliable because unknown participants and bots pollute data. Even with a targeted research sample, survey fatigue has led to insufficient engagement and low response rates. According to Forrester Research, 94% of brands rely on email surveys to gather

customer feedback, and only achieve 1-2% response rates. The typical survey process is very slow and can be expensive. Surveys often rely on third-party sample providers and vendors that can take months to develop a project, gather data, and analyze results. And each study drains your budget. What’s more, with a survey-based approach, you can only gather a limited amount of data. Moment-in-time snapshots of your customers don’t reflect evolving opinions and behaviors.

Insight community market research tools

An insight community is highly flexible and supports numerous types of market research strategies including in-depth interviews with individuals, focus groups, surveys, and more. With an insight community, you can conduct both quantitative and qualitative market research.

Quantitative Research

Qualitative Research

Focused on the “what.”

Especially useful when asking your community members to choose from different options or prioritize preferences.

Focused on the “why.”

Allow you to drill down on beliefs, attitudes, motivations, and interactions. Especially useful for discovery at the start of a project.

Insight communities enable many types of market research formats.


Diads or Triads

Focus Groups

One-on-one with moderator, typically 30-60 minutes

2 or 3 participants + moderator, typically 60-90 minutes

5-12 participant + moderator, typically 90 minutes

Ideal for:

  • Decision-making
  • Preferences
  • Motivations
  • Experiences
  • Sensitive topics

Ideal for:

  • Broad topics
  • Multiple perspectives
  • Encouraging debate
  • Sparking new ideas
  • Smaller, more intimate than a focus group

Ideal for:

  • Broad topics
  • Multiple perspectives from a larger group
  • Encouraging debate
  • Sparking new ideas

Insight community survey best practices

Long-form surveys targeted to members of your insight community can be useful, but be sure to mix in some shorter “pulse” surveys, perhaps delivered via mobile devices so members can answer them quickly when on-the-go.

You can lower your number of “drop-outs” and incompletes by varying the type and format of questions you pose to your insight community:

  • Start with broader or easier questions first
  • Break big ideas into multiple questions
  • Incorporate a variety of question types
  • Randomize answer options to eliminate order bias
  • Include a free field text option to specify “other” or an option to select “don’t know”
  • Ask at least one open-ended question in a quantitative survey, with a maximum of four

Start with easier questions to warm people up, for example, “What’s your favorite app?” Break big ideas into multiple questions and make sure language is easy to understand. Shorter is better to maintain attention, so do what you can do limit surveys to five minutes or less. Make sure people can access surveys on mobile devices and avoid large grids that are difficult to navigate.

Avoid double-barreled questions, for example “Do you eat fruits and veggies every day?” Wording is important: Avoid jargon, acronyms, and repetition. Don’t force responses among a fixed set of answers by including “None of these,” or “Don’t know” options.

Video conversations with insight community members

Live video is one of the most useful market research tools used in an insight community for obtaining in-depth, nuanced feedback. Video gives you the flexibility to conduct qualitative research using a range of methodologies, from one-on-one In-Depth-Interviews (IDIs) to diads, triads, and focus groups. Not only do you get to hear the literal voice of the customer, you can also see their facial expressions and sense their emotions and gut reactions.

Video in an insight community goes far beyond the capabilities of a recorded conference call or Zoom meeting.  For example, with Alida’s Video Conversations, observers can watch the live video and message the facilitator to provide direction. Video Conversations also enables rapid analysis, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI) that synthesizes rich data and turns qualitative feedback into measurable data.



How do you measure the success of an insight community?

Communities can be growth engines, not just cost centers. Typically, companies with insight communities focus on at least one of three key measures of business value:

  • Increasing revenue
  • Reducing costs
  • Decreasing risk

The metrics you choose to measure success of your insight community should connect to your stakeholders’ strategic business goals. Before you jump into your next research project, take time to sync your goals with those of your stakeholders. Start by discussing broad outcomes and themes, and then ask your stakeholders to articulate:

  • What decision will they make based on your research?
  • What hypotheses do they have that they want to test?
  • What success metrics are they looking to achieve?

Getting down to this granular detail removes any ambiguity and makes it easier to formulate joint success metrics. It also helps you define your scope of work, confirm that you’re gathering the right data, and figure out how you’re going to measure and present it. All of this will ensure you deliver outcomes that matter—outcomes that provide business value.

Your success metrics should be tied to your stakeholders’ business strategy and desired outcomes, not simply the operational performance of your research activities.

Business value metrics

Operational metrics

Improve product market fit

Increase in survey representation

Increase in Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Increase survey response rates

Decrease in customer complaints

Decrease in market research costs

Increase in employee satisfaction

Faster research results

Once your program is underway, these metrics will help you quantify and track business value. Even if you can’t measure them today, setting goals like these will help you create a vision for the future.

How do you recruit members for an insight community?

The people in your insight community should be representative of the people you serve and/or want to serve, especially when those people are hard to find or hard to engage. Seek out community members who have something constructive to say about your brand and want to share their thoughts. You’re looking for people whose success is tied to your brand. For many brands, this means people who use your product or service frequently. For some, it’s the people who have built their business around yours.

Where can you find these folks? Think about all your customer touchpoints, online and in person. Use those interactions to ask an engaging question that clicks through to a recruitment survey.  Sending an email to customers in your CRM database is a great starting point and typically provides the best return in terms of join rates. Also consider other channels where people are engaging with your organization:

  • Social media
  • Website banners and footers
  • Newsletters
  • Billing statements
  • Product packaging
  • Manuals or pamphlets
  • Events – in-person and online
  • In-store posters and kiosks
  • Purchase receipts
  • Contact center communications

People from these recruitment sources tend to be more engaged and intrinsically motivated to participate than those recruited from external sources like purchased lists, which are usually incentivized and create extrinsic motivation. Internally recruited sources also tend to have higher response rates and don’t turn over as often.

Make sure your insight community members are who they say they are by having an identity verification process. Double opt-in makes your members feel comfortable that they are in a secure environment that values their privacy.

The entire recruitment process should reflect the kind of relationship you want to have with your community members and create a positive interaction with your brand. Joining your insight community should be an interesting, relevant, and fun experience for participants. Make the sign-up process quick, and frictionless. Only ask need-to-know questions first, as you can collect more later.

Steps to sign up for an insight community

Keep your Profile Questionnaire/Recruitment Survey short and simple with these three easy steps:

  1. Invitation to a “Join our community”

2-3 need-to-know questions and the acceptance of the terms of service to quickly get insight community members double opted in and activate their membership.

  1. Recruitment survey (should take less than 5 minutes to complete)

An auto-deployed, personalized welcome message with survey to capture key demographics

  1. Welcome study (at least one day later)

Empowers members to inform you about the topics and methodologies they’re most interested in, such as online surveys, discussion forums, and other qualitative activities.

Insight community management

Insight community management involves the practices and processes required to maintain a robust and responsive community. Below are some best practices for insight community management to help you launch your community with the right resources and maximize your investment.

Resourcing your insight community

The role of the community manager is essential to keeping an insight community healthy and creating a positive experience for community members. The community manager is responsible for recruiting, prioritizing requests from stakeholders, executing research studies, making sure activities are engaging, and sharing information with stakeholders and members.

You don’t necessarily need to hire a community manager as a full-time employee. You can also use a third-party managed service. Either way, you’ll want to select someone who embodies your brand, as they become the face of your company to community members.

Insight community activities

When planning your community engagement activities, it can be helpful to categorize them into three areas:

  • Strategic activities – Consider your organization’s business objectives and how your insight community can proactively help in decision-making. Your insight community’s feedback can help support marketing plans, sales presentations, and board meetings/documents by bringing in the voice of the customer.
  • Engagement activities – Tap into promotions or announcements that your marketing or PR team is planning for the year ahead. These activities can provide clues on topics insight community members want to see researched that you could develop into an engagement activity.
  • Unplanned activities – Save room for ad hoc, reactive community activities that pop up to help when sales are down, marketing needs testing, or the product team has a new idea. Participating in these activities are especially exciting for insight community members because they can learn something new and timely.

Engaging with insight community members

Consider a variety of routes for delivering communications and activities to insight community members. Not all respondents – particularly younger generations – will want to engage through email. Allow members to log into a mobile app to participate in community activities, and make sure your surveys and content are mobile-optimized. In addition, many companies allow members to engage via QR codes, SMS texts, or at on-location kiosks.

Keeping your insight community healthy

It’s important to ensure fresh, clean data to keep your insight community healthy. Continually refresh your community membership with emerging demographics and new perspectives. Keep an eye on:

Community size

Review the success of your recruiting and look out for sudden peaks in unsubscribes 

Community profile


  • Distribution of your community by key profile variables to help you ensure you’re matching your optimal distribution
  • Proportion of participating, non-engaging, or underutilized members overall or by profile variable
  • Your sample size for a target audience

Integrating insight community data

Being able to combine insights from your community with behavioral and purchase data is key to developing rich customer profiles. In your insight community platform, you can integrate customer data from other sources, such as your CRM, ERP, and customer data platform. With everything in one place, you’ll be able to segment your research outreach to different groups based on their purchase history, behavior patterns, or other attributes. And, you’ll be able to segment results to understand the different needs and motivations of various buyer personas. As a result, you’ll be able to develop products for specific types of buyers and tailor marketing messages to be more personalized because you understand your customers better than any other vendor in the market.

Sharing results of insight community studies

Too often, the downfall of excellent research is a debrief presentation with dense data and too few recommendations. You can prevent this by transforming the structure of your debrief into a story.

An effective storytelling structure takes your stakeholders on a journey that starts with the “before” situation and describes the inciting action that creates some tension or imbalance that disrupts the status quo and creates the need for change. Appeal to your stakeholders’ emotions to be persuasive.

The findings of your research should be presented as the solution, rather than a conclusion. Organize your story around three to four big insights that support the solution. Think of those big insights as your chapter headings that you’ll support with your evidence. Land your big idea, then unpack it and support it with your evidence.

Keep in mind the Minto Pyramid Principle to help you develop a clear hierarchy and simplify your story: main idea, three to four sub-points, and then the supporting evidence. Through your analysis, you uncover the solution.

The more face time you have with stakeholders, the more you’ll build collaborative relationships and the more you’ll become the go-to resource when important decisions need to be made. Showcase decisions that were made and changes in the organization or customer experience that were enacted because of the work you contributed. Consider a roadshow to share what you do with different departments, in which you share your amazing work and articulate the vision and roadmap of your program to build excitement.

Insight community dashboards for stakeholders

Building an effective dashboard is a key part of communicating feedback from your insight community to your stakeholders.

Dashboards are a great way to give your stakeholders a visual overview of your research insights and the ability to drill down into the data that piques their interest. With everyone looking at the same dashboard, it’s easier to collaborate. And if your data is continually updating, dashboards ensure your stakeholders always see the freshest insights.

Just like any other method you use to share your community insights with your stakeholders, a dashboard should tell a story that flows, with a beginning, middle, and an end.

Sharebacks with insight community members

An ongoing feedback loop fosters trust. Sharing back ensures insight community members understand what you’re doing with the information you’re gathering, and how their participation influences your brand’s decision-making. Delivering on this promise through sharebacks deepens your relationship with community members, promotes long-term involvement, positive brand experiences, and a healthier, more engaged community.

With Alida, you can centralize your sharebacks and ongoing community exchange through a member hub. A member hub is your community’s home for sharing content, starting conversations with members, and building authentic customer relationships. A member hub offers an interactive experience for your members to “like” and comment on posts, thereby boosting engagement.

A hub gives community managers the ability to quickly design and deploy community newsletters. You can see which content members are interacting with the most so you can optimize your content.

How to select an insight community platform

Many ask: Why not use platforms like Slack, Facebook Groups, or Discord to manage my insight community?

These platforms aren’t designed with the needs of the enterprise in mind. You can’t influence the functionality, which means you’re wholly dependent on third-party organizations to determine capabilities, integrations, privacy, etc. In fact, the very existence of your community rests in their hands. If they shut down, your community goes with them.

To get the most benefit from your insight community, you need an enterprise-level platform you can directly manage. That doesn’t mean building your own technology. It does mean having an insight community software that prioritizes your needs.

Insight community checklist

As you develop your requirements for an insight community platform or software, build a checklist to ask every software vendor. To maximize your investment and give you the flexibility you need to build a successful insights program, any insight community platform you choose must:

  • Confirm that people are who they say they are. It should weed out bots and make sure all participants have opted-in and have agreed to share their feedback.
  • Ensure a diverse set of members to accurately reflect your customer base. Your recruitment process should give you the ability to set maximum and minimum representation from different groups.
  • Include built-in, on-demand survey and communication tools for rapid response.
  • Include forums or discussion threads to enable ongoing conversations with and among customers on specific topics.
  • Provide a place to share and organize content designed for the community, such as videos, articles, and results of their feedback.
  • Make engagement (likes, comments, shares, etc.) easy for community members, especially on mobile devices.
  • Get all relevant data in one platform that builds over time, so you don’t have to ask the same questions again and again.
  • Allow for segmentation and targeting of questions and activities based on user types, geographies, behavior, and other variables.
  • Include actionable analytics to measure changes over time and allow you to slice and dice data by different segments.
  • Ensure security and privacy (with access controls, hosting, PII management, and opt-in requirements) to create a safe space for unfiltered feedback.
  • Give you the ability to scale without technical issues that cause friction or a pricing model that discourages growth.
  • Include road-mapping tools for long-term planning and prioritization without cutting and pasting from your community platform into other enterprise tools.
  • Offer professional support, guidance, and ongoing education to help with community recruitment, best practices for engagement, content cadence and style.

Additional insight community resources

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