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    A More Human View of Our Communities

    Kyle Kim-Hays, EVP Global Digital Marketing

    Back at the dawning of the Digital Age, there was an expression that made its way into the lexicon: High Tech, High Touch. It was a shorthand expression of the idea that as organizations and industries embraced technology, it was important to stay in touch with their various audiences. Even back in the stone age of the online era technology gurus understood that the anonymity of technology would make it all too easy to alienate the humans who should—after all—be the real beneficiaries of the technology revolution.

    Fast forward 30 or so years, and the old tech axiom has never proved truer. Surrounded by a sea of Big Data, it’s easy to get swept away by the potential of new, ever-smarter technology and forget that every “end user” has a face, name, and life story.

    Sustaining a clear vision of users’ humanity is especially important at a digital insights company like Toluna, where our days are devoted to building and maintaining an expansive and vibrant community of panelists. Our global community—now numbering more than 13 million—is the heart of our ability to offer clients real-time insight from custom-built communities culled from our global village.

    Toluna is a B2C(2B) company and our community is at the heart of what empowers us to provide real-time access to insight. Toluna clients can instantly access insights from tens of thousands of consumers who meet their specific criteria all with a click of a button. Clearly, this real-time communication is viable, and to continue to reap the benefits of this type of engagement it’s important to treat our community members as the valuable resources they are.

    Changing the Vocabulary and Mentality

    Across the market research industry, you’ll hear terms like “sample” and “supply” used to describe panels. I believe these impersonal words reveal a tendency to commoditize and lump together community members—each of whom should be treated as a unique and valuable individual. Perhaps this terminology reflects the fact that our business can be considered by some to be transactional.  But, in reality, we are in the business of building longer-term, ongoing relationships with our panelists. It is these relationships that allow us to build into our insights a unique level of both quantity and quality.

    We can best safeguard those relationships by offering community members incentives with real value—showing them how much we prize their insights—and Facebook-like opportunities for communications around products and activities that play important roles in their lives. Advanced technologies like digital tracking give us the ability to custom-design incentive packages that are perfectly suited to individual members’ needs and interests. And our extended community offers almost unlimited opportunities and resources for community-building on a global scale.

    In short, the market research industry is not using best-in-class digital marketing practices prevalent in every other industry because we don’t really recognize panels as a B2C effort; instead we’re stuck in a pre-digital transactional model mentality.  But we at Toluna are determined to liberate the full power of consumers to influence the brands and products they love.