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Custom Research Communities vs Regular Survey Panels

Custom Survey Communities
Written by SurveyPolice

On the SurveyPolice forum, we often post opportunities to join custom research communities. These opportunities are usually around for a limited time only, with a limited number of spots available. These communities are very different from regular online survey panels. Let’s explore why.

What exactly is a custom research community?

Custom communities, or custom survey panels, are specifically formed around a group of people who may share a particular interest, occupation, gender, etc. These communities can be branded to revolve around a particular brand or company, or they can be more general and focused only on a particular topic or group of people.

An example of a general community would be one who would be looking for those who consume fast food regularly (the interest), are male (the targeted gender) are located in the USA (the target region) and who are between 18-25 (the target age range).

communitiesAs per the example above, these communities often look for a very specific demographic of people to join their panel. This is because the company running the community may be looking to target their customer demographic. Hence, why it can be tricky to qualify to join.

Such a specific type of person is sought out for these panels because a company might wish to gather regular feedback from their target audience. Custom communities are conducive for this, as they are a central place where attitudes and behaviors can be monitored. Contrast this with a regular online survey panel which is typically used on an as-needed basis.

Market research firms who run regular survey panels might offer online solutions to create, manage, and monitor these online portal communities.

For instance, Toluna Group (who runs the Toluna Influencers) offers their own software for this, called “Panel Portal”.

How to participate in custom research communities

recruitmentRecruiting for these communities may be in two ways: internally, or externally. Internal recruitment is where existing customers of the brand or company are invited to join the community. External recruitment is usually done when the company running the community is not just looking to gather the opinions of their existing customers, but also of potential ones. In the end, the type of recruitment performed for these special panels completely depends on the intention behind the community itself.

When external recruitment is conducted, companies can reach out to different blogs, websites, etc. to help them build their community. SurveyPolice is one of these websites, and we post these special community opportunities under the Specialty Panels section of the forum.

Note that many of these communities have a limited number of spots available and do tend to fill up fast. Unlike a regular online survey panel, custom research communities are much smaller in size and are usually limited to only a few hundred or few thousand people.

Regular online survey panels

“Regular” online survey panels are those that we feature most prominently on SurveyPolice – online survey panels run by legitimate market research companies. These panels are often enormous in size, and can have millions of members, from all corners of the globe.

The survey panels are “communities” in themselves, however they do not generally revolve around a particular interest, and instead, simply aim to be representative of the general population. So for instance, if a survey panel is aimed at Australians, and 20% of Australians are between 20-30 years old, the panel will aim to have 20% of their members fall between this age range.

Regular survey panels will generally only place two restrictions on joining their panel: age and country of residence. Age can be restricted, as many panels do not conduct research on those under the age of 18. Country of residence is often another restriction, as some panels limit their expertise and services to one location.

That said, survey panels can often be aggressive in recruiting members of the population who they are in need of, in order to keep their panel as representative of the general population as possible. So for instance, a panel may look to recruit more males than females at any given time, as females may tend to be more likely to join their panel.

What regular survey panels are used for

Regular online survey panels are contacted by companies, governments and non-profit organizations to conduct surveys for them. These surveys are often done on a contractual basis, and can just be for one study. A company might not have a need to keep a constant pulse on their customers through a custom community, but instead, may have a few questions for people of the public about a new product or service they would like to launch.


In the end, custom research communities and general online survey panels serve two very different purposes. One serves to keep a constant pulse on existing (and perhaps potential) customers, while the other serves to provide market research data on an ad hoc basis.

Custom research communities may ask their existing customers to join their community, or may temporarily recruit members for their community via blogs and other websites (like SurveyPolice). Regular online survey panels tend to keep their survey panels open for new members to register with at any time, and try to keep their panels as representative as possible of the general population.

Both types of survey panels are important to the online market research space, and as a survey taker, it is a good idea to have membership with both. If you’re interested in a particular brand, or interest, and a custom community exists around this, joining it can prove to be a great way to take surveys about something that you truly care about.


Sources: “How it Works.”

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