How to source participants for your surveys

Here are five ways you can source participants for your surveys. You'll get the participants you need if you try:

  • using an online recruitment service
  • placing banners on your website to promote your survey to your users
  • sending email invitation to your subscribers and users
  • using your social media channels
  • using participant screening tools

Use an online recruitment service

Participant recruitment options can be very effective if you want fast, pain-free responses with minimal effort. You can access our recruitment service through your account. After you've launced your survey you'll see the 'Recruit now' button on your Dashboard. When you click here, you'll be asked for screening criteria, so you can customize your participants, and only pay for what you ask for:

Place banner ads on your website

Our experience running card sorts and tree tests has taught us that banner ads on the website you are testing are very effective at attracting relevant survey participants. If you can, put an ad on your homepage and other frequently visited pages. The ad has to be really prominent, while still following principles of usability. We don't recommend pop ups, but having an animated drop down call box from the top implemented across the whole site is very effective.

Websites with high traffic volume can attract large numbers of respondents quickly in this manner. Sites with lower traffic volume may attract sufficient numbers over a longer period of time.

Send email invitations to your subscribers

Newsletters and email mailing lists can be very effective too. Some corporates have panels of customers who have agreed to participate in future research and you can recruit from these lists. You may also have your own in-house panel from which you can recruit.

It's best to send invites out in small batches so that you can stop when you have enough and reserve the rest for the next round when you've learned something and want to iterate your study and run it again.

Use your social media channels

Using your social media channels is great for finding people with similar interests online. If you know where your target audience are, then go there. Are they on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or a specialist forum or blog?

Twitter

Tweet about your survey and send a link to your followers. Include a retweet request at the end of your message, so that when your followers, and your followers-followers, respond to your tweet your original message is included in their tweet, helping you reach a wider audience.

How to use Twitter for Crowdsourcing and Simple Market Research has some good advice on using Twitter to recruit survey participants.

Monitor hashtags on Twitter to see if there is an audience or topic relevant to your survey. Tweet about your survey using these relevant hashtags. Check your competitors' hashtags too.

Facebook and LinkedIn

Aside from simply posting your invitation on your Facebook and LinkedIn pages, you could search for groups that are representative of your audience and invite them to participate. You could also consider buying an ad on Facebook, and writing a compelling invitation that will encourage people to participate.

Use participant screening tools

A participant screener is a separate tool (often a snippet of Javascript code) that you put on your website to intercept visitors for surveying. Tools like Ethnio intercept visitors to your website, screen them based on survey criteria, and send point suitable candidates at your Optimal Workshop survey. This is both effective and easy to set up.  

We integrate with Ethnio, which you can find out more about here. And there are other screening tools you can use as well.