How to name a market research online community

Anthony Shephard-Williams, research director, explains the importance of choosing a name for a private online community, and shares his thoughts on some things to consider when choosing a name for a long-term online community.

Choosing the name for a long-term private online community may not seem that important when you consider all the other strategic and tactical decisions involved in setting up and managing a community, but it can be a tricky task nevertheless. After all, once you’ve been officially “named” it’s something that is intended to stick, and can cause quite a stir if the name is considered inappropriate (I’m quietly chuckling to myself right now thinking of a news story I read recently; a couple from India had twins in 2020 and named the boy Covid and the girl Corona…. OK we’re talking babies here, not market research platforms, and it’s a little extreme, but you get my gist!).

Here are just a few reasons why it is important to give a long-term community a name:

  • It helps members feel a sense of ownership of the community from the start – personalising and humanising the client / subject area in the process;
  • It can be a key way of establishing the tone and purpose of a community;
  • If the community name is similar to (or an extension of) a client’s brand, then it can help to reinforce that brand identity further;
  • It can be a fun way to engage with your members, getting them involved in a way that encourages interaction, discussion and debate (and sometimes controversy!).

Case study: Choosing a community name for Transport for West Midlands (TfWM)

In Q4 2020, Mustard was working on the design and build of a new long-term online community for our client at TfWM. The key objective of this online community is to open a two-way dialogue between TfWM and residents of the West Midlands, in all things related to travel and transport across the region.

‘Naming the community’ competition time!

As new members were joining the community from mid-November until early-December 2020 they were able to suggest potential names for the community in a ‘name the community competition’.  Members were asked to take into consideration the key objectives of the community and to think of names that would showcase the very essence of it.

The competition was a great success and we had hundreds of suggestions. Mustard reviewed the long list of ‘potentials’, and whittled them down to a shortlist of ten. Our goal in narrowing down the names was to ensure that they were inclusive, were linked to the overall objective of the community and that sounded pleasing to the ear i.e., “catchy” and memorable. Plus, of course, vetting any “Boaty McBoatface” type suggestions. We also shared the shortlist with our client to get their input and invaluable local knowledge, to ensure there were no names that could have an ulterior meaning or negative connotation.


And the winner is…

Once we had our shortlist it was time to get our members involved yet again – they all had the chance to choose their favourite name in a poll. The poll was open for two weeks and it was genuinely exciting to see (often on a daily basis), how the results changed. Or maybe that is just the geeky researcher in me?! It was a close race to the finish, although but we did have an eventual winner (with a score of four percentage points higher than its nearest rival) – the community was to be named – “Keep WM Moving!”.  

Whilst personally I was routing for another name to win, that came a close second (that’s democracy for you, hey), I’m not about to do a Donald Trump and throw my dummy out of the pram! At the end of the day our community members have made this decision and it was their decision to make, and it is still a brilliant name nevertheless. In my opinion it is a positive name that relates ‘literally’ to travel and transport but that also evokes feelings of progression, change and growth.

If you have any questions about online communities feel free to get in touch. Also feel free to share any community naming hits or misses! –