SMXpert (1)

Ipsos Social Media Exchange

Moderating for Better Insights


At Ipsos SMX, our engagement based community practice centers on the relationships built between participants and community managers. This relationship allows us to build an open, honest dialogue with consumers and provide our clients with richer insights. But how do community managers establish trust and ongoing engagement with participants while at the same time maintaining high research standards in design and moderation?

To answer that question, we spoke to Rachel Belinky, Community Strategist at Ipsos SMX, who sat down to explain how the basic tenets of social media combined with innovative techniques in online moderation can lead to unique connections with community members, and better insights overall.

Q: Why is it so important to build trust with members in the context of an online research community?

Rachel Belinky Headshot

Rachel Belinky
Community Strategist

A: The level of trust that is built throughout the course of a community lends itself to deeper insights and increased compliance. Community respondents are more likely to provide an honest and incredibly detailed response (compared to traditional qualitative studies) and more compliance (compared to traditional quantitative studies). If a stranger asks you to do something, you are less likely to oblige than if a friend of yours asks you; the same principle applies to community vs. other traditional methodologies.

Q: How do you leverage trust and engagement in your everyday moderation techniques?

A: From my perspective, an insight (more often than not) has an emotional component to it. For instance, someone might think that a woman colors her hair for the first time because she wants to change her look, when in fact, women’s reasons are much more emotional than that: she wanted to become the woman she always dreamed she could be or she wanted to stop being defined by everyone else’s perceptions, just to name a few. In order to get to a deeper emotional insight, you have to ask  questions that warrant a personal explanation – you can’t expect to ask “What was the reason you first colored your hair?” and get an emotional, introspective response. You may instead provide an example of the type of response you are hoping to receive from members and make the example one of your own personal stories so that they feel comfortable being just as open and honest because you were with them.

Q: Can you give us an example of a recent project in which you did this?

A: I’d be happy to! I was challenged by a global hair color team to understand what kind of packaging elements would communicate to a certain target.  So, how do I provide this brand with compelling information to make the learning actionable while also making it engaging for members? Pinterest – that’s how.

I asked qualifying women that were considering leaving the color category due to rapid gray growth to create 2 boards on Pinterest for me: one for if they were to stop coloring their hair and one for if they were to continue coloring their hair. For each board, I asked them to pin the following, assuming they would be attending their high school reunion:

1. What is your hairstyle at this reunion?
2. What length and color is your hair at this reunion?
3. What is your outfit for this reunion?
4. What does your make-up look like?
5. What would your mood be at this reunion if you continued to color your hair?

We are at this very moment testing the package designs that were inspired by our research which is incredibly rewarding to see. Members loved participating in such a unique co-creation event and the clients were thrilled with the innovative approach and actionable results.

Q: Aside from leveraging actual social media channels like Pinterest for your research, do you utilize any basic principles of social media in your everyday community management?

A: Absolutely! I think it would be difficult not to. So many of the principles that I unconsciously ascribe to on my own personal social media accounts inevitably trickle down into how I engage with our members.

Let’s approach this from a different angle by talking about some of the deadly sins of social media. You’ll notice that people on social media who don’t typically have a large following or much engagement probably commit some serious social media sins. Now let’s see how just a few of these social media sins can translate into a lesson on engagement:

Social Media Sin #1:Post ALL the time about mundane things.

You ate Wheaties for breakfast? Walked the dog? Stuck in traffic? Bored at work? Gee, that’s fascinating! These posts are not funny, thought-provoking, or clever, and are posted with way too much frequency. How it translates to community engagement? Make the content interesting by using creative methodologies or your unique voice to make the topic or the way in which you ask the questions more engaging. And don’t overburden your members!

Social Media Sin #2: People who constantly post out of focus pictures of their soupy-looking casserole that no one would ever want to eat based on the quality and composition of their picture.

A Frankenstein creation may not taste as horrendous as it looks, but based on the picture you just shared, you couldn’t pay me to take a bite. How it translates to community engagement? Images are an incredible source of engagement, whether it be the ones for your activity/event nodes or personal images you choose to post for engagement activities – be very thoughtful when choosing your images.

Social Media Sin #3: People who rarely, if ever, respond to those who engage with their posts. How it translates to community engagement? When a member @mentions, PMs or directly e-mails the support mailbox, respond to them as soon as possible. No one likes to be kept waiting and no one wants to feel like they are being ignored. Make responding to your members a priority.

Q: Are there any engagement techniques you’d say resonate more than others with your community members?

A: Sharing personal stories and photos in engagement activities, hands down. It allows you to be seen as an actual person rather than just someone behind a screen asking them to participate in research. By sharing more of who you are, it offers the opportunity for your members to connect with you in all sorts of ways, developing a stronger relationship and more trust.

Q: How do you maintain objectivity in your daily moderation while having so much fun?

A: To remain objective and neutral when probing in research activities, I swear by the “if at all” and “if any” rules. Let me explain what I mean:

If a member says that she doesn’t like a specific shampoo brand and would never use it again, I might ask, “How, if at all, could this brand improve their product to make you interested in purchasing it again? Your responses are always so detailed, @NameOfMember – don’t let me down now!” or “In what ways, if any, could this brand make their products more relevant to you? And please be as detailed as possible, @NameOfMember – you’re always incredibly insightful and I would love to know what you think!”

Not only am I remaining neutral in my question, but I am reaffirming to the member that I read what she posts and value her contribution in the community.

Q: Now time for a fun question: If you could describe yourself only using 3 emojis, what would they be and why?

nature-2 : If you’re friends with me on Instagram or Facebook, you know that a huge part of my life is spent taking aww-worthy pictures of my incredibly photogenic and totally unimpressed Olde English Bulldogge, Brisket.

ios_emoji_face_with_tears_of_joy: I surround myself with people who constantly have me in stitches. If your friends can have you crying tears of joy from laughing so hard (which mine often do), treasure them forever.

sticker,375x360.u4: I am the kind of person who wears my heart on my sleeve. If I just adore you, you’re going to know it. This emoji is one I use on the regular.

Thanks for the great interview Rachel!

For more information on Ipsos SMX Communities please click HERE, or for business inquiries, please contact Menaka Gopinath.