Creating an Online Database of Research Participants

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    Online research can be tricky when dealing with people who you’ll likely never see face to face. We’re relying a lot on verification techniques and trust - trust that customers and consumers want to help businesses improve, trust that research participants are who they say they are, and above all trust that the data they provide is relevant and accurate.

    So the question presenting itself now is, how do we create an online database of trustworthy, engaged research participants? Insight teams face a minefield of obstacles when recruiting the right participants for their research, so there are a few ways they employ to try and maximise the chances of success.

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    Creating an online database of active research participants requires a lot of trust in both the insight team and the participants.

    Understanding the Right Demographic

    Obviously, the first thing insight teams need to do is define the demographic they’re attempting to recruit. They can do this with traditional demographic data (age, gender, location, etc.), which will be useful for some surface-level location and recruitment tactics, but for a more relevant and accurate recruitment strategy insight teams will need to dive down deeper into who they actually want as their participants.

    Non-traditional demographic data can identify different subcultures, routines, social and community influences, researchers can even use time and event-based segmentation and identify groups through modern tribes. While traditional demographic data provides a good foundation for these extra influences will provide a more rounded persona to recruit for market research.

    Make Sure the Database is Secure

    So, with a researcher’s database of participants sharing personal data throughout the entire research process, it’s important to build privacy protections into the recruitment and research process. 

    Gaining informed consent is crucial to obtaining high-quality, accurate data that generated deep insights. For normal market research, this doesn’t necessarily mean each participant needs to sign lots of contracts before they participate in research, but obtaining their explicit consent through a quick survey and informing participants beforehand of how you will capture, use and store their data, and abide by GDPR or similar data privacy regulations is crucial to secure and ethical market research.

    So what privacy practices can we implement to make sure the participants and their data are secure? 

    • Continual reviews and evaluations to make sure insight teams have the best security practices in place. 
    • Make sure they’re working, make sure everyone on the team knows that this is an individual effort as well as a team effort. 
    • Gain the proper certifications (and maintain the practices outlined within them) to ensure the trust of both clients and participants.
    • Keep up with data security practices as technology, data, and policies evolve. 

    Recruiting the Right Participants

    Here are four of the best ways you can find the best participants to recruit into your online database. From online sample providers to existing customer lists and more.

    Sample Providers and Recruitment Agencies

    These are great providers of research participants when stakeholders either don’t have the knowledge, resources, or means to recruit participants into their own online database. Sample providers are self-explanatory, they already have a database of pre-recruited consumers that can fit any requirements stakeholders might have. Recruitment agencies will work to understand stakeholders’ requirements and then go and source the research participants from there.

    If stakeholders or insight teams have the funds available to hire out the task to these experienced sources, then they have a good chance at getting a good foundation of research respondents for their online panel.

    If insight teams choose to recruit participants themselves, these sources are also good options for when the database needs topping up with active and engaged participants in a quicker timeframe than it might take if the insight team was to take on the task themselves. Researchers typically have famously busy days liaising with stakeholders, creating and moderating research tasks, and then analysing the data from those tasks to create powerful insights - so it’s not always feasible to take on this task themselves. 

    Customer Base

    For researchers looking to conduct this task themselves, using the stakeholders’ customer bases is a good start. This is an easier option to start with, because those customers that the company are in continuous contact with on a regular basis will have the experience with the brand needed to make a difference, and will also be in contact with the brand already so no special measures need to be made to capture their attention.

    Customer communities are an important brand and business strategy building tool; they’re utilised by many large organisations to keep track of their progress, connecting with customers on a deeper level to gain insights into many different aspects of the service they’re providing. 

    The already open communication channel businesses have with customers is a key way to let potential respondents know of the vital opportunity available to make a big difference to the business they know and (hopefully) love.

    Social Media and Online Presence

    Social media is another popular online recruitment channel that many researchers take advantage of already. There is a huge advantage to using social media, because a large number of the world’s population is on social media in one form or another. Certain demographics gravitate to certain platforms for specific reasons, which helps researchers narrow down the platform they should use when recruiting participants from social media. 

    With paid targeted ads leading to short questionnaires gathering both consent and relevant demographic information while filtering out those who don’t fit the research criteria, recruiting an online database of research participants 

    For business professionals or more academic research communication, LinkedIn is a good choice. For a more general nationally representative spread of consumer participants, Facebook, Twitter or even Reddit might be a better platform option. For the younger generations, using the newer, more creative social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok can be beneficial for recruiting that particular demographic.

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    Recruitment Drive through Referrals

    For those insight teams that already have a database of participants and research currently running and they’re just looking to top it up with more active participants after processing all the inactive ones, then they already have a great source of recruitment. Their current research participants, whether through a long-term community or panel or even one-off tasks, are great channels who could lead us to more people like them.

    Incentivising the referral process will encourage current participants to refer their friends and family to join this and future research projects. Current participants can gain points, discounts, or even financial incentives to send screener surveys to others and might receive their incentive on the entry of another participant (like referral schemes for brands to bring in new customers).

    FlexMR InsightHub

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