Core4 rewrites consumer research rules with social communities

Invitation-only groups allow companies to establish an ongoing source of conversation and feedback about their brands.

Because I'm a journalist, I tend my recuse myself from consumer phone surveys and research, but my husband still indulges researchers until they overstay their telephone welcome. I can't even begin to imagine how inefficient and costly this method of market research must be, especially with a chatty person like my significant other on the line.

So I was intrigued to hear about Core4 Research, a company with offices in Arkansas and Minnesota that uses Telligent social community software to create research communities on behalf of its customers. The Telligent software sits behind Core4's invitation-only Livebranch communities, which Core4 cultivates and curates on behalf of its clients. The company was founded by former Proctor & Gamble sales and marketing executives. Telligent's technology is central to its research methodology.

"We offer the ability to organize a group of consumers through a dedicated community," said Henry Ho, one of Core4's partners. "This allows them to post their thoughts and feelings about subjects. We aggregate and organize the insights."

Core4's clients use Livebranch communities in a variety of ways, Ho said. Some of them encourage a steady stream of consumer and shopper insights on a weekly basis, while other post specific questions to gauge the pulse of the market about a specific topic. In order to keep the insights fresh, Core4 refreshes approximately 10 percent of the participants on a monthly basis, offering a small incentive for participation, Ho said.

One of the most important roles for community managers is to build trust, so that feedback is specific and honest, Ho said. The rise of social networks has made research subjects more willing to share their thoughts in this sort of setting.

"People in marketing and research have more questions than they have budgets for," Ho said. "What Livebranch enables them to do is get responses back far quicker."

Core4's approach to research is indicative of how social technologies will change the ways companies communicate with their customers, said Rob Howard, CTO of Telligent. "Social is something we believe is part of the entire set of experiences that people have when they experience a brand," he said.

Telligent's social community software also is being used to bridge external and internal conversations. The company recently announced new features for its software that allows companies to collect ideas from customers, business partners and employees. The solution is called InnovationCast, and it is intended to help businesses make their innovation and research and development processes more efficient.

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