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When you think of sourcing survey respondents, most companies think of traditional panels, lists of potential survey takers across the globe. As part of iMAD’s services, we offer not just regular panel recruiting, but also custom community recruiting where we can drill down to very specific groups with special interests, and include multiple touch points over time to keep a finger on the pulse of your target market.  While there are many similarities, this post aims to highlight the differences between a panel recruit vs. community recruit. 

Regular Online Panel Recruits

Traditional online panels are what we most often think of when we seek to conduct a survey.  Large panels of potential respondents that span the globe and often have millions of members.  These panels are meant to represent the general population, and panel providers may not have enough data on all of these respondents to whittle them down much farther than their geographic location and age. 

Regular online survey panels are utilized by brands or companies to conduct surveys, typically just for a single study and on an as-needed basis. If a company needs to conduct a one-time survey of the general population (maybe ahead of a new product or service launch), these panels, provided they are properly vetted, are an easy way of polling a representative sample and are typically the lowest cost option. The respondents will likely be different from one survey to the next.

The Difference in Custom Research Communities

Custom communities are specifically formed by identifying a group of people who all share some things in common.  They may share a special interest, lifestyle, gender, occupation, buying behavior and more. These communities can revolve around a particular brand or company, or they can be focused only on a particular topic or group of people.  Providers may collect enough data on their panelists to be able to provide a proprietary list of potential respondents that match a client’s needs, or they may utilize tools like social media to recruit for these segments.

Some communities are more general in nature and these are typically the easiest to identify, similar to choosing a panel.  An example of this may be a community of women (targeted gender) between the ages of 18 and 35 (target ages) who practice yoga (targeted interest). 

Other communities can be far more specific.  For example, a brand may be looking for men and women between the ages of 21 and 45 who are located in the US, own a 4-wheel drive vehicle and go camping at least 3 times a year.

When and How to Use Each Audience

“Include Traditional Panels in your sample blend when the research is more generic, with larger sample sizes, and Custom Communities when it is more targeted and focused on niche audiences. In most scenarios, the results will be satisfying if the sample source is carefully chosen beforehand.”

Kartik Khanna, Co-Founder

Specific communities like these are often sought out when a company has a goal of gathering regular feedback from their target audience in the form of a tracker. Custom communities are a great fit for this type of ongoing research since they act as a hub for like-minded people to express their sentiments towards a product or service and their changing behaviors can be easily observed over time. 

Just like our more traditional research panels, iMAD Research offers solutions to create, manage, and monitor these online communities.  Whether you are choosing to recruit on an ad hoc basis or you want to keep a finger on the pulse of your current or potential customers, iMAD can build the audience of your choice at the most cost effective prices and with the highest quality in the industry. 


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