February 19th, 2020
The best-kept research industry secret: research doesn't have to be expensive. You don't need to spend 5-figures to validate your ideas and understand your users!
And within a short week, we have more than 100 responses from participants who sit squarely in our target segment!
With just a simple typeform survey we put together in an hour and we started recruiting using the methods below. Responses started rolling in and it piqued many people's curiosity to find out more about Bellini Slushie. We ended up converting a lot of first-time visitors on our landing page.
(For those who are lost: recruiting is just a way of saying "looking for participants")
We have years of experience recruiting for both qualitative and quantitative research efforts with extremely minimum budgets (read: $0). Over the last few weeks on Indie Hackers, we’ve realised this is a pretty common problem and wanted to put together a coherent article with some tips from our combined experience. Although this isn't an exhaustive list, we want to suggest channels and methods that have worked for us personally.
P.S. If you are a researcher of any kind (UX, market, consumer, start-up founder, indiehacker), we’d love to hear from you! We’re always looking for more data points and responses.
Here, we’ll be writing about recruiting for surveys specifically, but a lot of these methods can be replicated for other types of research as well.
There are two keys to scrappy recruiting: persistence and diversification. Unless you find a goldmine of participants right away, recruiting is naturally going to be more difficult and is going to take longer than paying for participants would. You need to post in multiple channels at once and continuously monitor and interact with each of your posts. If you’re not seeing responses, then you need to find new channels to target. This process will repeat until you’re done.
Imagine yourself as a door-to-door salesman. You can’t just stop after the first rejection, or even the tenth. At least in this scenario, no one is slamming doors on you or chasing you off with a broom. At worst, your post is deleted or you’re ignored. At best, you get way too many responses.
An important thing to note here is, a high-level of difficulty you face in recruitment might signal a poor Founder-Product-Market fit. If you can’t organically find where your users are hanging out online, there is a distinct possibility you’ll face difficulties distributing and marketing your product at launch.
So just go for it; the longer you delay, the longer it'll take to gather the data you need.
In no particular order, here are some channels we suggest:
The simplest way to get feedback will always be from your friends and family. It's so easy to post across your personal social media accounts. We've also found that reaching out directly is very effective, as people are less likely to say no when they're asked. Don't be afraid to send messages to people you haven't talked to in a while - the worst they can do is say no and you move on.
If your friends and family aren't in your target market, ask them to ask their friends and family. Compose a message that your network can easily forward onto their network, or ask them to like and repost your message. Chances are, there's someone in your extended that's perfect for your survey.
Search for Facebook Groups with topical relevance to your survey and request to join as many as you can find. For example, if your survey is about car maintenance, you could join groups based around car owners, enthusiasts of specific brands, grease monkeys, car shows, etc. You can explore and find a lot of different interests around your topic on Facebook.
In addition, community groups are another great source on Facebook. These community groups could be your city, your school, etc. Even other interest groups that don't seem relevant car maintenance might have car owners inside.
Once you find groups, pay attention to how the group usually communicates and post a message according to their style. For example, some groups you can post your survey request right away. In others you may need to post a more generic question first, interact with the respondents a bit and then ask about taking the survey.
Examples of Facebook posts:
Online Forums are another great way to find highly engaged users. There are many popular forums that span multiple topics, e.g. Reddit, Quora, Indie Hackers. Using the car maintenance example, you can find relevant subreddits / spaces / etc. related to cars and maintenance on each of these.
There are many niche forums related to singular topics of interest too. You can get creative with different types of forums the more targeted your search is. A quick google search for car forums in Singapore finds me places like MyCarForum, Singapore Hardware Zone’s ‘Cars & Cars’ section, Singapore Expats’ ‘Cars & Motorcycles’ section, etc.
Honestly, a lot of posting in forums is about testing and learning what works and what doesn’t work in that specific subreddit / space / thread / etc. You could post the same message across a few different forums, and each will have a different reaction because they have different users and culture.
Thus, the greatest success you can have is to be active in their community. Follow threads on similar topics and engage with those users, regardless of whether you’re recruiting or not. If you're active in the community and people recognize your name, they'll pay more attention when you ask for something later. More importantly, sometimes you might stumble upon common problems and frustrations amongst them. Remember, sometimes observation is as important as asking the right questions.
Slack groups are a great way to find niche communities of people in similar industries, jobs, and lifestyles, e.g. freelancers, developers, and virtual workers. These groups are usually founded around 1) giving and receiving advice or feedback and 2) simply connecting people in similar situations. You can explore 1,000+ Slack groups across the world or search on for something more specific.
Because Slack groups tend to be very tech-industry focussed instead of general interest topics, it could be harder to find groups relevant to your survey topic - on I quick 30 second search I can’t find any Slack groups around cars and car maintenance. That doesn’t mean the groups don’t exist, they’re just not as obvious as some of the other methods. On the flip side, if you’re surveying freelancers, you’ll have more of an issue choosing which of the hundreds of groups you want to join.
Once you’re in a group, make sure to introduce yourself to the community and interact with the other members. Don’t forget to check out all the channels the group offers and join as many that you’ll benefit from. Some groups even have dedicated channels just for #surveys or #feedback!
If you can’t find any Slack group specific to your survey topic, e.g. cars and car maintenance, search for the generalized communities. Most groups will also have their common interests channels, so a freelance community could have a #car-enthusiast channel. There are a lot of startup and entrepreneur communities that could be just as useful to you as joining groups in your target.
Note: Slack groups may have membership fees to join. If it's a group you think is perfect for your target market, we think it’s worth the fee. If you become part of the community, you can continuously use Slack as a great resource.
You might actually scoff and think, "these are the exact people I'm trying to avoid." Rethink that! There are plenty of people in your target that are lurking on LinkedIn still, regardless if they say they aren’t.
The good news is: you don’t need to get a million views to get engagement on LinkedIn and with your survey. Just experiment a few times with what creates reach for you before you post your survey. For example, we’ve found an easy way for us to get more eyes on our posts is to nag people in our network to like it as soon as it's published. It’s not too hard to get about 1000 - 10,000 views on each post, so that’s a lot of free, organic eyeballs. Plus, people are usually bored at work when they are scrolling Linkedin, so it makes them that much more likely to take your survey. 😉
Note: LinkedIn has recently changed their algorithm, which most “how to go viral” articles haven’t picked up on yet. Check out some of the changes here and experiment right now!
Twitter is a tool we’ve just started experimenting with, so we won’t write much here. That being said, we do believe Twitter is another excellent channel to tap into for recruiting.
This thread made us laugh:
This will make most people uncomfortable, but asking strangers is also an effective means for collecting feedback. This method will mainly be"qualitative" conversations you will convert into quantitative data later. It can be extremely nerve wracking at first, but once you do it a few times you start getting the hang of it.
If you're seated in a coworking space like we've been for the past few years, you can easily sit in the lobby with a snack. Ask people passing by if they have a few minutes to chat - they'll come for the snack, but that doesn't mean their feedback is any less.
If you aren't in a coworking space, you'll need to go out in the world 😱. If you just need general feedback, talk to random people you pass on the street, talk to your ride-sharing drivers, talk to the person seated next to you on the bus, etc. If you have a specific target, go to their locations and see if you can chat with people, e.g. if you're targeting car maintenance, go down to an auto body shop!
Wherever you end up, try and keep the conversation short and ask questions that are easy to answer - be conscious of people's time and that you're in their space.
Good question...that we will answer another time 😝. We wanted to keep this article about the channels and how to use them. Don’t worry though, we’ll follow up shortly with an article on best practices for recruiting and posting using these channels.
A general comment we’ll make: pay attention to what you post and be respectful of each channel’s rules. Most will have rules against spam, and some places may even forbid surveys. If you're not sure whether you can post, ask a moderator whether it's okay to post or not.
The final thing we want to reiterate before you go: persistence and diversification is extremely important. Don't just expect that you can post once and everyone will automatically go to your survey; you have to put in continuous effort to get participants.
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Tzeying has been doing UX Strategy & Research across 7 countries in the Asia-Pacific for 10+ years.
Alexandria has been doing concept validation and development in the US and Asia for 3+ years.