Tips about Recruiting Participants online

I have been recruiting participants for my advisor’s and my own study for a while. I mostly use social media, which is a great way for me to get connected with ideal participants, but also a potentially creepy way. A lot of times, people don’t want to get harassed because of something they posted a long time ago. Or people don’t even realize their posts are public. So here are some tips for myself to always remember while recruiting participants:

Of course, always be nice.

Always let them know how this study could potentially benefit them in the long run. I found some participants truly interested in my study and wanted to help more. So keep in touch.

Avoid being creepy. Once I found a 6-month-old tweet using a hashtag I was searching for. I replied and was called creepy. I felt awful of course. So tell them how I find them — so they will know that their content is publicly accessible, which might make them less surprised by my message or comment.

Find a good time to message them. For one study I tried to interview nonprofit organizations, but because of the political spheres at the time, they were all pretty swamped by their own work. So it is quite unlikely for them to make time to talk with a researcher. For another study, I tried to interview individuals who were protesting for some social issues. They mostly value the opportunity to have more people hear their voices, so recruitment went pretty well.

Make a professional and legit contact. This means trying to provide professional information in a professional way. An official web page could help, and an edu email account could make it clear that I am affiliated with a university.

Building on the previous one, a webpage should be as accessible as possible. First of all, participants should be only one click away. Like on Instagram, a link in comments will not automatically turn into clickable, so I always tell them to check out my bio’s link, where they can easily click on the link and have a web page opened. Another thing is what I learned from my advisor. Make the webpage accessible, and provide an accessible pdf.

Have alternative ways to participate in the study. I learned this from my advisor while we were writing an IRB submission together. Not everybody could speak verbally in an interview study. So let people know email or text messages is possible.

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