The term "panels" or "communities" are being tossed around regularly and are often confused and considered to be the same thing. While they share likenesses, they are different in a couple key dimensions.
Members of market research panels, also known as advisory boards by some, tend to participate in traditional survey research and polls. There tends to exist a bi-dimensional flow of information... from you the client to the member, asking for information... and then, from the member back to you, with information, or answers.
Communities, on the other hand, go much further, taking advantage of Internet technologies and trends. The information flows multi-directionally and is multi-dimensional. The flow may start from you or from the member. It may travel between members, between you and the members, or even between the members and non-members outside the community sphere. All those connected to the topic contribute and add value to the discussion. Throughout the process, our market research team extracts and analyzes the data. All the discussions lead to more discussions, which lead to a deeper understanding. The participants feel like equals in the discussion, as opposed to a respondent with clear and defined roles and status levels that can often impact results.
Opinauri is trying to open the discussion and provide an environment similar to that of the local town square, the corner barber shop or tavern, and allow discussions to transpire naturally. We are great facilitators, but mainly, we are listeners. Our role can be viewed as outwardly more passive, but in actuality, we are active in guiding the discussion to bring forth the greatest value in research quality and findings.