Facebook offers a viable method of recruitment for online qualitative research in certain situations. Here we outline how it works, and look at its pros and cons.
How Facebook recruitment works
Facebook recruitment is usually based on Facebook advertising. In other words, an advert is shown to a target group of people.
Instead of this advert being to promote a good or service, which is what would usually happen, it invites people to register their interest in taking part in a research project, in return for an incentive.
It is very important that a Facebook recruitment advert is worded in terms of inviting people to register their interest in taking part in the research, rather than just inviting them to take part in the research. This is because with the latter approach there is a risk that too many people would sign up and expect to be paid their incentive, and that some, or even all, of those people would not be properly qualified for the research.
People who wish to register their interest in taking part in the research click a link on the Facebook advert. There are various options for what happens as a result of clicking the link. But one option, which we favour, is that it takes people into an online recruitment survey.
The purpose of the recruitment survey is to collect demographic data, give further details about the research, and ask questions which identify those respondents who meet all the qualifying conditions. Anyone who does not meet the qualifying conditions, or who is in a demographic group which already has the required number of prospective participants, is screened out.
With Facebook recruitment it is possible to target adverts at specific groups of Facebook users. For example, this could be residents in a certain geographic area, and/or people with particular interests.
Facebook gives certain pre-defined options for this, and shows a count of the number of users that meet the conditions set. For example, you could enter the conditions of Living in Bristol and being Vegan. This would show the number of people who meet these criteria.
In practice, there may not be a literal option for “Being vegan”. But instead, there may be options to select people who follow, for example, certain vegan restaurants or groups.
A difficulty with Facebook advertising is that very often the conditions required by the researcher or client are not available within Facebook’s range of pre-defined filter options. In addition, Facebook changes these options from time to time.
This is not to say Facebook can’t be used for recruitment, but rather that the advert would have to be directed to a broader audience, and the recruitment survey would have to filter out the non-qualifiers.
Pros and cons
In terms of the advantages of Facebook recruitment, it does offer potentially fresh participants for each research project, and Facebook has an enormous global user base across all demographic groups.
On the other hand, the response rate to Facebook adverts can be hard to predict, and therefore the recruiter has somewhat less control in terms of being able to achieve a certain number of recruits within a given time-frame.
Facebook advertising can be successful, and we have used it a number of times. To be honest, we would usually consider panel recruitment first in most situations, but that’s only because we feel it gives more control. Certainly for very localised recruitment Facebook can be a good option, and we would always consider Facebook as one option when recruiting.
Finally, in terms of cost, Facebook is generally around the same as other methods. The Facebook adverts themselves cost very little for each person who clicks on them, but there is still a fair amount of programming and general administration involved for the recruiters.
If you would like to find out more please contact me for further information.