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There are a million ways to recruit people into a community panelÛ_ Well, maybe not a million but a myriad, for sure. This includes everything on the following list and all combinations and permutations within: targeted eDMs, corporate websites, e-billing, piggy backing on corporate communication, direct mail, advertising (traditional or online), point of sale, events, merchandise/product, sales team and social media channels.

That is a lot to chew, so for this blog, I would like to focus on social media channels. Social media can provide a useful additional avenue for recruiting into community panels, especially as more and more companies are developing and honing their social media strategies across a wide variety of social media channels.

There are two major angles to consider when leveraging social media for recruitment: 1) client SM channels and 2) customer SM channels.

1) Client SM Channels: A client's social media channels could be related directly to the company, the brand or the product. For example, P&G versus Gillette versus GilletteMACH3 Power. More specifically, client channels include twitter, Facebook fan page, Google+, LinkedIn Groups, YouTube channel, blogs and more. It is important to note that a consumer facing company will tend to use social media channels slightly differently from a B2B company.

2) Customer SM Channels: Customers provide another avenue of social media channels to promote your brand, your research, your community panel. Through their own personal channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), customers provide a fast way to extend your reach by potentially reaching into their respective networks. In the world of recruitment, this is often called 'Refer a Friend'. This mechanism can be a powerful tool but requires a good user experience to fuel the referral process. If your core members don't get something from being a member of the community, they aren't very likely to loop in their networks.

When using social media channels for recruiting into a Community Panel, a lot of the basic tenants to social media still stand, most of which I am stealing from a great best practice document by a colleague on "deploying surveys through social media". Recruiting requires just a slightly different angle.

Use positive action words (i.e., join, provide feedback), create a sense of urgency (join now, create the next product), and help them identify who you are looking for (expert users, techies, financial gurus, health conscious shoppers).

Target any of the following: group, profession, association, event attendees, or topics using relevant hashtags to amplify your campaign.

Schedule different messages so that you hit different regions or time zones at different times. Use your network to amplify your message through re-tweeting, liking or sharing.

Shortening your link is good social media practice largely because it provides you with more room for your call to action. Some link 'shorteners' (if that is a word) also provide you with metrics on 'clickers' to evaluate the effectiveness of your call to action.

If you are recruiting via social media, which is a very mainstream general population approach to recruitment, it is recommended to keep your screening questions to a minimum and be as inclusive as possible. Social media allows for your recruitment campaign to be spread to anyone on social media whether your target or not. Getting screened can be a negative experience to which people are very sensitive. So think carefully about your screening questions when using social media recruitment.

Sometimes there is an extrinsic incentive to join a community either through a prize draw or individual incentives. If you are using the latter, be prepared for the possibility of your recruitment message going viral resulting in some people joining for the wrong reasons. If you are using a prize draw or sweepstakes, it may be difficult to control for who gets your recruitment message.

Come through on your sales proposition of why they should join the community. Provide them with an engaging experience and show how their feedback is being heard and incorporated into the product or service.

  1. Compelling Call-to-Action:
  2. Use Hashtags to Target Recruitment:
  3. Coordinate a Campaign:
  4. Shorten and Track your Link:
  5. Be Cautious with Screening Questions:
  6. Be Cautious with Incentives:
  7. Engage and Deliver:

Your customers are also savvy social media users and can provide a huge network of possibilities for recruitment. If you can convince one customer of the importance and value of being part of a community panel and deliver on that premise, they can spread the word to their social media networks casting your net farther. Provide easy ways for members to distribute your mechanism for joining the community panel to their network, with share buttons, convenient links etc. Of course, sometimes you might want to shut down the tap and restrict who or how many you let into the community panel, in which can in some cases increase the allure of joining.

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