4 Best Practices to Recruit Participants for Online Focus Groups, In-Depth Interviews, and Online Discussion Boards

4 Best Practices to Recruit Participants for Online Focus Groups, In-Depth Interviews, and Online Discussion Boards

Recruitment of participants is a critical step for the success of your online qualitative project. While this task might seem overwhelming, there are four main options you can choose from. Read this article to compare the options you have and pick the best one to meet your project requirements!

1. Hire a professional recruitment company or recruit your own participants

Whether you are an individual or an in-house researcher, outsourcing recruitment to a company specializing in this area is the best solution if you have the budget and need to move quickly. There are many great qualitative recruitment service providers available. Buyer beware... not all recruiters are created equal! The most common issue we see is when a company that has mostly done QUANTitative sampling for online surveys does qualitative recruitment and simply provides a list of panelists that made it through a recruiting survey. There is a high risk that these people that are accustomed to doing numerous online surveys for under a dollar per survey will not understand that they need to take the time allocated for a focus group and actually show up for it. In return, they will receive a significantly higher incentive for their time.

itracks has worked with some great recruiters, and you can obtain a quote for the recruitment for your study using our pricing tool https://trusted.itracks.com/. In order to obtain an accurate quote, describe the market you are targeting and provide a project description. You can also describe your software service needs and submit the quote. The quote request will instantly go out to the qualitative recruiters that you select, and they will respond with a quote that will come to your email inbox. Simply accept the quote, and you are on your way! Using an itracks Trusted partner will ensure they understand itracks platform and will have the participants fully uploaded to the platform, technically checked, registered, scheduled and ready to participate!

Check out our free Recruitment Survey Template that'll help you recruit the right participants! 

2. Recruit participants from a client list

You may have a customer list that can be a great asset for customer-based focus groups. This can save money, but it does take several steps to set yourself up for success.

3. Intercept Recruiting

Add a link to a website or online process to request participation. The participant could join an interview live, or you can set up a workflow to have them register and use time selection to choose their interview or focus group time. For online discussion boards, you can take them right into participating in the online discussion. Sometimes every 5th visitor to the site is invited. Other studies may have perhaps customers that abandon a shopping cart invited to participate.

4. Recruit your own participants from a panel

The fourth option is to recruit participants from a research panel, intercept or social media. Panel recruitment typically involves sending a link to the panelists that includes a link to a screener survey that screens for the key characteristics of the people you are looking for in the focus group. Alternatively, you can post the link on a website or social media ad with a link to a screener survey. Once you have the survey completed, you will need to do additional screening and communications to prepare them for participants for the interviews or focus groups. After having recruited for thousands of focus groups, we have seen problems with recruitment from panels and advertising, such as people cheating just to access the research incentives. Learn more about problems and potential solutions here: 5 Biggest Problems with Recruiting for Online Focus Groups and How to Avoid Them

Once you have a good quality list of people that have completed the recruitment screener survey, here are the steps to getting the participants ready to participate in their focus group, discussion board, or interviews:

Run Checks in Advance

It used to be a common practice to call participants to verify they would be coming to the focus group and do a technical check and sometimes rescreen a critical question. The days of calling someone on a landline and having them answer are long gone. What’s more, most people do not pick up the phone, especially when it comes from an unknown number and area code. The time and costs associated with calling and leaving messages are not worth it, and you risk annoying the customer base. Fortunately, there are now automated solutions to problems.  

We recommend using a platform that offers a technology-based technical check offering users the ability to conduct the technical check on their own schedule at their convenience. Ideally, there is a help desk they can contact to receive assistance if they are having issues with their internet, webcam, microphone or software. Ideally, the platform being used for the focus group will show which participants have completed the advance check. That way, reminders can be sent to those that have not.

Another option that many clients use with itracks that has been successful is having the participants go into the itracks Board platform and answer one question. They are asked to record a short video of themselves answering a rescreening question for verification. Those who can provide a video show that they are articulate, qualified, technically competent, and very likely capable of participating. By taking people through this process, we have also found that those who complete this simple task are way more motivated to attend.

Reviewing the videos can also help with decreasing the number of screening questions required as you can see the participants and ensure you have a diverse group if required. You can then avoid screening people out based on race or age just to fill a specific ideal combination of characteristics.

Use Time Selection and Scheduling Automation for Interviews and Online Focus Groups

itracks qualitative software offers a convenient time selection feature. The researcher can set up time options, and the participant can choose their preferred time during the project registration process. If all of the interview and focus group time lots are full, some participants will choose to be on “stand by” and come in at the end if the original participants scheduled cancel or do not attend. The schedule focus group or interview can be sent to the user’s email to create a calendar item so that it shows up in their calendar and reminds them about the event. These are great options to increase show rates for participants.

Communicate the Details of the Focus Group

Once you have your list of participants, you will need to let them know the time and details regarding connecting to the focus group or interviews. Many qualitative research software platforms will provide an email broadcast system with templates that can be customized that pipe in the project links and helpful information. Key things to include the online focus group information include:

  • the connection link
  • date and time of the session
  • request to join 15 minutes early
  • any incentives associated with the study and when they will be sent
  • consent, privacy and terms of use information
  • registration or tech support contact info

The email should be in the language being used for the focus group, which is ideally the mother tongue of the participants. itracks platforms have all of the invitation and reminder templates for users set up and translated in the language that the group is booked in.

Registration and Consent, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

In advance of the group (and with itracks as part of the email template confirming the details of the focus group), a key step in the research process is to obtain the participant's consent and or agreement to the terms of use of the software. Participants should know how their personal information is being managed and with who it will and will not be shared. This is important for research ethics as well as meeting privacy legislation requirements.  

The privacy policy of the platform or service provider you are using should be communicated to participants. Participants need to understand where their data is being hosted and the rights they have with respect to having their personal information reported to them, deleted or modified. Ideally, the platform selected will allow an individual user’s information and videos or comments to be deleted to accommodate this request.   

itracks privacy policy is provided in the template terms of use that is included as s default for all projects. You can customize your terms of use and consent if you choose as well. Contact itracks support for more information on customized terms of use and consent options. 

For sensitive topics, you may give the participant the option of choosing a different “Display Name” for your project. Their real name is available for project management and issuing incentives. The display name is the name that will be viewed in the software by other participants and observers. Some clients have fun with this and use celebrity or cartoon character names.

Send Reminders

It is helpful to send a reminder the day before and the day of the interview or focus group. Forwarding the information in the original invite is helpful as well. For more information on panel recruitment, check out our blog: The 5 Biggest Problems with Recruiting for Online Focus Groups and How to Avoid Them. 

Congratulations! You are set up for success with participants for your upcoming online focus groups or interviews! If you are on a tight timeline or need support, itracks team is happy to assist with all or any of the above steps. We have your back. Contact us today for information on our supplementary services.