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Complex Networks Leverages Youthful Community For Cultural Insight

Complex Networks Leverages Youthful Community For Cultural Insight

Complex Networks, the American media and entertainment company owned by BuzzFeed Inc., is tapping its unique audience as a focus group for brands. 

The research arm of Complex Network, Complex Collective, has signed up nearly 30,000 fans of the media company’s content as a ready-and-willing resource on tap for brands who want to hear the young-skewing audiences’ opinions. By offering a direct line into the engaged and diverse Complex community, Complex Networks has managed to turn the Complex Collective research arm into a reported “seven figure” vertical. 

The media company’s community-powered research arm makes money from clients looking for proprietary behavioral insights into the rapidly changing attitudes and trends in youth culture. The panel of respondents is also often turned to by writers and editors within the Complex Network for editorial purposes to help inform and aid in the production of their own content. The primary audience insights product has shown year-over-year growth, and in 2021 provided insights and custom research recommendations to a dozen companies including those as varied as Banana Republic and the Center for Disease Control. The success of the research platform shows that brands and organizations are more than willing to hear directly from audiences when testing everything from resonant messaging to figuring out how to sell to a new consumer base. Complex was contracted for the service by triple the amount of organizations in 2021 as 2020. Each company that taps the community for insight pays Complex between fix-to-six figures, depending on the research task and the process. 

The Complex Network admittedly has a high churn rate. Fans of the media company aren’t paid for their involvement in the market research directly, and there are no incentives like gift cards or prizes for signing up. However, members of the community are given exclusive access to virtual events, and for some, just seeing their opinions represented and having their voices heard in the campaigns and content produced through the research process is reward enough. The panel gives the audience a feeling of connection and community that incentivizes that on-giong participation, rather than one of purely transaction, and as a result the average response rate is an admirable 61%. The community has put out reports in partnership with other leading research organizations, including PSFK

In 2022, Complex plans to establish Complex Collective community panels in the U.K. as well as select other international markets, plus hire dedicated community employees in management roles. As the community grows, Complex is also creating an advisory council consisting of eight executives, activists, and founders at the intersection of culture and commerce as a layer of leadership over the research collective. The advisory council, which is also unpaid, includes individuals like Kith Chief Impact Officer Sharifa Murdock, SNKRS + NBHD global brand specialist Jonathan T. McLean, TheFutureParty founder Boye Fajinmi, BMX athlete Nigel Sylvester, and footwear creator and curator Frank Cooker. The council is meant to represent the different audience demographics and categories the Collective is able to speak to, help with Collective member retention and give clients access to experts in their respective fields. 


This article originally appeared in the PSFK report, Growing the Value of Customer Communities.