What Are Market Research Online Communities (MROCS)?

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Are Market Research Online Communities Your Answer for Qualitative Research?

We do just about everything online: Dating; socializing; even ordering in Chinese. So why not apply that same sensibility to qualitative research? What was once limited to in-person focus and discussion groups can now be accomplished through Market Research Online Communities, or MROCs. By creating a MROC, you can skim the most useful opinions and conversations from like-minded individuals to help you delve deeper into the collective consciousness.

Consider it social networking for market research: Learn more about MROCs and you’ll understand why we “like” this hyper-connected method for qualitative research.

What’s an MROC?

An MROC works like a focus group, but it’s entirely online and its features are left up to the administrator. Because it’s highly customizable, it’s ideal for a deeper, more personal look into attitudes and ideas.

By leading participants through various discussions and exercises, the administrator samples things like reactions to marketing efforts, brand attitudes, and even brainstorming with a group of people who are best poised to make a difference and return higher-quality data than say, an open online survey.


  • Because the administrator controls who is admitted into the MROC, he or she can handpick the best candidates and create the most accurate sample based on demographics. This allows for a reduction in overall bias, since the administrator can choose participants from a variety of demographical backgrounds (or, alternatively, hand-select those from similar backgrounds for a different slant).
  • An MROC allows for spontaneous contributions, such as unsolicited conversation, blogs, and interaction between participants, leading to more organic data.
  • Focus groups offer a chance for participants to reflect over time, returning more in-depth answers than a poll or survey. Market Research Online Communities give the group the same opportunity, without the constraints of location and time.


  • An MROC is essentially left at the mercy of the administrator. Not only does the administrator choose applicants, but asks questions, continues conversations, and shares media. Because of this, an administrator bias can be detrimental to the final results of the group.
  • There is a degree of recruiting and re-recruiting that can disrupt the flow of the group and take up extra time. This longer time commitment means it’s not the best medium for quick surveys.
  • A lack of nonverbal communication can affect results. In a typical focus group setting, you have the luxury of facial expression and body language, which is removed in an MROC setting.

There is also a question of how involved the client is in the process. For some groups, the administrator is the sole touch point for the group, while other groups like a degree of client involvement. Choose carefully, since that involvement could skew results (such as participants being falsely positive because a brand ambassador is participating in the group).

It’s Facebook for focus groups: An MROC can act as a solid option for researchers who want the perfect sample without worrying about geographical location. Introducing an MROC gives administrators and researchers a new tool to add to their arsenal of data collection methods.

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