Ten Ways Quality Participants

10 Ways to get online qual recruitment right

Tom Woodnutt

Tom Woodnutt

Feeling Mutual

Tom Woodnutt is a planner and qualitative researcher with over 16 years in the industry. He works at the intersection of digital, insight and strategy. Tom has helped many agencies learn how to design research that is more inspiring for both clients and participants. He has also been digital skills trainer for the AQR (Association of Qualitative Researchers). 

As with any piece of qualitative research, your outputs are only as good as your inputs. This means you have to get recruitment right. In asynchronous online qual the stakes are high. Not only because you need people to turn up a number of times over a few days, but also because you need them to be sufficiently motivated to contribute in full.

The returns are also high because of the sheer depth and colour you get from multimedia and textual feedback. By working with a great recruitment partner and following these steps, you can be confident that your sample will be of ample quality and quantity.

Here are ten tips for getting the best quality online qual participants:

1. Provide an honest brief

Think through all the questions and tasks you’re asking your participants to complete and plan how long it will take them. Be open and realistic about what’s involved so participants feel that it’s a fair exchange.

2. Inspire participants with more than just money

Use soft incentives to motivate. For example, make it clear how important the project is, how much you value their opinion and make them feel special.

3. Make sure your invitation to take part is welcoming

Send an email invitation that is more than just factual and functional. Take it to an emotional and personal level by positioning the research as fun, social and important.

4. Test their ability to express themselves

Set an imaginative challenge to find the most articulate and creative participants e.g. ask ‘If you could spend 24 hours with a famous person who would it be and why?’.

5. Pre-agree an arrangement with recruiters

It’s best to establish a price with recruiters before you’re under the pressure of a live brief. That way you can negotiate and agree terms from a more relaxed, less urgent position.

6. Call participants before the project starts

A quick phone call builds rapport and makes people feel much more vested in the project.

7. Mention re-contacting upfront

If you want to speak to participants again in a follow-up project, get their approval from the outset. That way they are more likely to agree (and it’s in line with the MRS code).

8. Check they’re open to taking videos of themselves

If you need self-taken videos, don’t assume that everyone is comfortable filming themselves. Ask your participants at the recruitment stage to confirm that they’re happy to do so.

9. Recruit based on behaviour not claims

Consider new approaches like Behavioural Recruitment, powered by Facebook data, find participants on demand based on their daily online activities and then validate them with screeners, meaning you can be far more confident they genuinely meet your criteria.

10. Over recruit

Even having done all that you can to incentivise your participants, factors outside of your control can cause participants to drop-out. If you can afford it, over recruit by 20% to hit your quota. However, be sure to factor in enough incentives in case they all turn up!

These tips will help you get the most out of online qual recruitment. If you’d like to learn more please email tom@feelingmutual.com.

Match your recruitment specifications

Behavioural Recruitment, powered by live Facebook data, finds you fresh participants, based on real behaviour:

  • That genuinely meet your criteria
  • Give 47% more data than traditional recruits
  • On-demand, from 2 billion users in 190 countries

Participants are screened in a 3-step process to get you the best possible people for your project.

How to design for maximum engagement

The GRBN’s Participant Engagement Initiative is a great industry endeavour to improve the user experience. Last year the group released ENGAGE: 101 tips to improve the participant experience which is an extensive set of best practice examples to help with engagement in research.


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