Editor’s note: Rudly Raphael is president of QuestionPro Audience, a Chicago-based market research firm.  

The passing of Aretha Franklin in August brought me back to her glorious music. Of course, “Respect” played on repeat on my streaming device, even at work. It’s a transcendent song about how we often marginalize and take for granted those who bring positive results to our lives.

In my view, there is a lack of R-E-S-P-E-C-T for online participants from many market researchers. Annie Petit, a research methods consultant based in Toronto, said to me recently, “It’s very easy for researchers to have unrealistic expectations of participants.”

The lack of respect and understanding of online audiences is growing and the general public is developing a negative view of MR. This has led to a wide range of criticisms of online participant dependability, the value of information gathered and the need for incentives.

With just a bit more appreciation and knowledge of online research participants we can leverage their insights for more accurate data in studies and be more professional.

An online panel is a community of research participants who share specific characteristics in common: general consumers, IT decision-makers, beer drinkers, etc. They provide their opinion to research questions that fall into their area of expertise. 

Without a doubt, online research panelists are experts in their area of interest. They are thought leaders, understanding your products or industry better than anyone. Creating a well-chosen, well-developed and highly engaged community of experts for online research purposes is critical.

The process of developing an online research panel involves collecting and storing critical profile data from each member of the panel. This includes demographic, psychographic, lifestyle, employment and household decision-making responsibilities.

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