Questioning your community: benefits and limitations


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Thanks to the development of their online presence, BtoC brands can now easily address their consumers, and without intermediaries. Fan base on social networks, brand communities, customer base ... it is to these types of channels that BtoC brands sometimes turn to conduct their studies and make decisions in line with their needs.  

For which specific cases are these methods adapted? What are their limitations? And why do they struggle to replace representative samples?

1. The fan base: the brand's followers

Brands have different types of consumer groups at their disposal to conduct studies - the fan base is one of them. This group consists of brand followers on its various social networks. Turning to the fan base is an easily accessible and very affordable way to conduct surveys. These consumers are also generally very enthusiastic about helping their favourite brand in its decision-making! Questioning this type of community is particularly relevant in the context of actions that concern them and that aim, for example, to thank the brand's fans (the creation of a special edition for example).  

This method is less appropriate if you are looking for objective opinions. The answers from this type of respondent will not be representative of your entire target audience, since only consumers who have shown their attachment to you by following your various networks will be exposed to your survey.

Other disadvantages of this practice are specific to the way your survey is distributed: your brand's account on social networks.

  • Your survey is shared directly on a public channel on your behalf, you cannot conduct a survey anonymously.  
  • It is also difficult to know the profile of your followers and therefore of your respondents. To avoid this bias, you could sponsor your survey with advertising to rebuild a representative sample of your target.

2. The CRM base: the brand customers

These are, as the name suggests, the buyers of the brand. This group of consumers is very suitable for conducting satisfaction surveys such as NPS (Net Promoter Score - the percentage of customers who would recommend your brand). Interviewing your customers allows you to:

  • collect feedback to improve your product or service
  • but also to strengthen your relationship with them and thus build their loyalty
  • and consolidate the market shares you hold.

Unlike the surveys distributed on social networks to your followers, these surveys by email allow for greater confidentiality.

The main limitation of this method is that it does not allow you to reach your potential prospects and therefore to constitute representative samples of the population, which is essential when carrying out a brand awareness study, for example, or when testing a new concept with its customers and prospects.

This type of survey does not allow for a sustained frequency: an over-solicitation of your customers could tire them and, in the long run, harm your brand image.

3. The brand community: the brand guinea pigs

The brand community is defined as a group of individuals who share the same representations and values of attachment to a brand. If the notion of community has always existed, it has become highly digitalised since the Covid-19 pandemic, opening up opportunities for value creation for brands. These communities are made up of voluntary consumers, most of the time customers of the brand, and have proven their success in co-creation logics, for example:

  • Lego Ideas: the community platform for Lego fans to share their creations and ideas for new concepts for the brand.
  • Decathlon Cocreation: a community described as "a place for exchanges dedicated to passionate sportsmen and women who want to get involved with Decathlon in the design of products."

This method makes it possible to engage consumers and to question a panel on various subjects and at a regular frequency.

But, if this method has many advantages, the insights gathered have a certain bias.

A brand community is made up of voluntary and therefore highly committed individuals - even more than in the fan base - who are not representative of the entire spectrum of your target: you are asking consumers who have already been won over by your offer.

Finally, building a community implies its maintenance and animation: this method will therefore require time, budget and dedicated human resources.


While the various consumer groups of a brand (fan base, customer base, brand community) are definitely a source of value, they also have certain limitations when it comes to conducting research. Quantitative studies allow you to gather representative samples of your target, and to gain market share by also reaching your prospects! This is the case of studies on social networks, which include in their methodology the possibility of integrating quotas to easily and accurately gather a representative sample.

If you want to survey your communities or customers as part of a satisfaction survey, for example, it's also possible to hybrid these methods with ours. Episto offers its conversational and engaging questionnaire technology to survey your communities, a valuable tool to modernise your image during your next survey!  

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Want to know more about social media research, download our white paper.

To discover our different types of studies, download our Guide.

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