Fair-Trade Learnings from Global Communities

“Members from the U.S. and other countries talk about the economy differently. Americans tend to talk about what they are personally doing to overcome their current financial situation. Members in other countries tend to talk more about what their family is doing or what their country needs to do.”

-Facilitator of multinational Communispace community

In the past year, social media use has grown 25% worldwide. There is a Babel of voices online, and a more pressing need than ever to make meaning out of the noise. And while technology may be the great unifier or the great democratizer, it is not the great homogenizer – at least not yet. It may be that “the world is flat,” but cultural differences remain.

Having now recruited over 10,000 members from 80+ countries across every continent but Antarctica (but we’re working on it, we’re working on it …), we have a strong foundation from which to explore if and how cultural differences are manifested in online communities.

Phase I of our research looks at community participation patterns based on a study of over 8400 members of 16 non-U.S. and multinational communities, and you can see it here. And stay tuned for Phase II, in which we’re assessing if and how Geert Hoftstede’s proven cultural dimensions (such as individualism and collectivism, femininity and masculinity, power distance, and uncertainty avoidance) describe non-US community members’ online behavior.

This is not a purely academic exercise. It is applied research, the purpose of which is to inform how we can most effectively recruit and engage community members in our relentless pursuit of insight.

But enough about us (even though we are American and that’s what we like to talk about). What are your ideas and questions about how to generate insights in culturally sensitive and appropriate ways?