Research communities are generally networks of professionals who collaborate using an online community model that has been set up specifically for research.
While they do share some similarities with more typical social media platforms, such as sharing and commenting functions, the key distinction is that the community has a specific focus. Here are some of the benefits of joining research communities and how to make the most out of them.
Bringing similar businesses together
Inspired by social media, one of the big draws of research communities is the people within the community. The platform gives people who run similar businesses the chance to connect with one another where they might not have otherwise, which adds value to the community as a whole.
Connecting this way not only increases direct connections between people who have similar interests or businesses, it increases the indirect connections of those around them. It’s a basic form of networking within a community without geographic limitations.
Idea generation is one of the most obvious benefits of joining a research community. If you have an idea but don’t know how to implement it, others can help. If you’ve implemented something but it’s not doing as well as you think it should, others can brainstorm ideas on how to market it better. If you think you can see a gap in a market but don’t know how to exploit that gap, others may be able to suggest ideas. It’s basically a free think tank.
Try to use the community to find new connections and get your name out there, but remember to stop and help others too.
Doing qualitative research
Qualitative research examines the “why” and “how” of various problems, and it’s something research communities excel at. Because of their limited focus, research communities can look at problems in more depth and over a longer period of time than a traditional study group might be able to.
The purpose of the research is to look at a case study, discuss it with the community, and produce a theory or solution. A quantitative analysis could be pursued to produce raw data, but without that initial research the data crunching and number analysis wouldn’t know where to focus. The quantitative analysis is useful, but optional. Research communities are at their best when they’re offering a broad range of ideas from a number of different people over a long period of time.
A less obvious use of these communities is to test products. The most relevant examples of this would be from the tech sector – if someone develops a new app, they have the ability to run it past others who may find bugs or have ideas about to improve the app. But it isn’t limited to technology. Anything that can be shared online can go through the same product testing process and since the results are shared within the community, the community as a whole benefits.
Making the most of it
As other people help you, you should try to help other people. The bigger the research community is, the more viewpoints there will be on offer. Try to use the community to find new connections and get your name out there, but remember to stop and help others too. If you’re entirely new to your community or business, absorb as much information as you can and eventually you’ll be able to pass on what you’ve learnt to newcomers.