4 Ways You Can Find Survey Participants for Free
1. Leveraging your own network (tips included)
2. Facebook Survey exchange groups (2 links to active groups)
3. Online platforms like SurveySwap.io (yup that's us, but we're pretty awesome)
4. Sponsors (Much better than all 3 above in certain circumstances, we're also honest)
Don't skip any of the 4, because they can all work depending on your situation.
Leverage your network
(More than just asking friends and family)
Of course, you start by asking your friends, fellow students and family members to fill out your survey. It's a bit tougher when you have more specific demographic criteria for your survey, like for instance: 'Baby boomers that use Instagram' - not that I know any of those. But as long as you can do a so-called 'convenience sample', this strategy can work.
A more effective way of using your network to get respondents is to actively ask them to share your survey on their Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or whatever social medium is hip with the cool kids these days. The point is, they have to share it.
I know what you're thinking...
"...but isn't that harassing friends?"
Yup, it totally is. But you can make it worth their while by doing a raffle.
Doing a raffle / give-away
The best practice is by Including a prize people really want, but usually wouldn't buy for themselves. Everyone can think of amazon coupons, but you could be thinking creatively. If you know your friends well, they might be into certain things which you can tailor your price to. For instance, you could get tickets to a really cool concert or festival, a wellness-center or spa that you really like.
I understand your budget might be low, but time = money. Calculate for yourself if it's worth to get 100 respondents in a week by spending 45 dollars/euros on a concert, or spend 4 weeks getting only 15 respondents and having a big heache every day.
Unlock your inner creative, spend a little money and go for it! You will thank me later ?
Include a video of yourself
"OMG", "Are you out of your mind?", "I'm not gonna record a video".
I know, I know.
Nobody (except for maybe some annoying influencers) like to see a video of themselves, let along spread it. But this works magic!
Include a little video of yourself talking about your survey. This makes it easier for your friends to share, and also helps the friends of your friends understand who they are doing favor. Mentioning what they can win (the raffle, remember?) can give a great boost to how much response you get.
Mention Survey Length (or not).
If your survey is short, you should emphasize the number of minutes it takes to fill out your survey in the post, for example: "Only takes 1 minute!".
In the case of a longer survey, it might be wiser to apply the ‘Ignorance is bliss’-philosophy. All you can do is hope people feel the urge to finish what they started!
Don’t take it personally if your friends don't .jump to your rescue. No one likes filling out surveys without getting anything in return. Unless you’re a famous Instagram ‘influencer’, you can still be disappointed by this method.
Facebook Survey Sharing / Exchange Groups
On the next method, Facebook Survey Sharing /Exchange Groups. In case you didn't know, there are facebook groups created to exchange surveys. It comes down to filling out each other's surveys. “You fill out mine and I’ll fill out yours.”
Everyone in these kinds of groups is looking for participants, just like you.
They are really helpful but still have some issues:
- When you fill out other people's survey, only 50% fills out yours (using a 5-minute survey).
- If your survey exceeds 5-minutes, this approach get's drastically less effective.
- It's quite hard to track who answered your survey, and who didn't yet
- You have to fill out a lot of surveys
- The groups appear big with thousands of people, but generally only 20 on a thousand are active on a daily basis.
Advice for the use of facebook groups
The same rules apply as the post you would send to your own network. Use a picture that stands out. A sad-looking cat or dog with a text like ‘help me graduate’ can do wonders.
Other people that are looking for participants will mention in the comments section of your post that they did your survey. You’ll always want to double-check, which is easy because their name is visible on Facebook.
As soon as you fill out someone else’s survey, you can comment on your accomplishment accompanied by a link to your survey. Unfortunately, this requires following up, because your fellow students tend to be rather forgetful. If you choose the ‘reply’ button, the original post owner will receive a notification and pay more attention to your comment.
Where can you find Survey Exchange Groups?
You can find these groups by searching ‘survey sharing’ or 'survey exchange'. In the description of the group, it should say something like: ‘this group is for students who help each other with surveys’. If you speak multiple languages, it’s convenient to search for groups in those languages as well. Take into consideration that it might take a day or two to be admitted to the group.
Here are two active Facebook Survey Exchange Groups with reactive admins:
Yep, that's us! I know that I'm blatantly advertising our company, but it's a great source of free respondents (Don't believe me? Check independent reviews here). SurveySwap.io is an online platform that operates according to the same philosophy as the Facebook exchange groups: ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’, but there are more advantages.
I'm not gonna rip you off now, as a company we are committed to keep the platform free for students. That includes signing up and using it! You're welcome ?
Advantages of SurveySwap.io
- Better data quality
- No long surveys in exchange for short surveys
- A much bigger pool of respondents (20,000+ users, anno 2019)
- One place to get all your respondents
- You don’t have to waste energy double checking if someone actually did your survey.
Surveys that take longer than 5 minutes are usually discarded through Facebook Survey Exchange Groups. Your sense of guilt/responsibility has to be really strong to make you do a survey that takes 30 minutes to fill out, especially if yours is way shorter.
The SurveySwap system assigns points (or credits) according to a survey’s duration.
To illustrate how the system works
You create a survey that only takes a minute to fill out and post it on SurveySwap. Subsequently, you fill out someone else’s survey, which takes you 5 minutes. The system will now ensure that 5 people fill out your survey. The only thing you need to do to find all the participants that you need is to repeat this set of steps!
How many surveys do you need to fill out?
Take this calculation as an example:
Let’s say your survey takes 5 minutes to fill out and requires 80 participants.
It would take you 5 x 80 = 400 minutes to find to acquire the participants you need. That translates into approximately 6.7 hours, less than a day of work. It may seem like a lot of time, but students before you often spent months finding their participants.
How do you get started?
1. Go to surveyswap.nl and set up an account. Make sure you choose the language that our fluent in, otherwise you’ll be assigned to surveys that you don’t understand.
2. Next, you have to choose:
Either you upload the survey that you previously made on Qualtrics, SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, etc. or you make the questionnaire through SurveySwap.
3. Fill out the required information about your survey and SurveySwap will calculate how many surveys you need to do, like in the example above. If you don’t fill out other people’s surveys, your survey won’t be visible for others.
4. If you choose to upload a survey from e.g. Qualtrics on SurveySwap, don’t forget to add your unique SurveySwap link at the end of your questionnaire. Otherwise, the system doesn’t recognize you and might automatically delete your account.
Find sponsors for your research
We would only advise this if (1) you are proactive, (2) require many respondents (>250), or (3) have very specific demographic criteria. Finding a sponsor can be quite challenging. This approach requires dedication and strongly depends on whether your research is relevant and profitable for companies, but you can be creative (I believe in you!).
It all depends on your choice of study and research subject
While doing my university degree I did two specializations: Occupational- and Organisational Psychology and NeuroScience. It was way easier to find a sponsor for my thesis in Organisational Psychology than NeuroScience.
How do you find a sponsor?
You can start by laying out proposals to your student counselor, professor, supervisor, examiner, or service desk. Even if they can’t help you, they might refer you to someone who can.
If the university doesn’t want to sponsor your survey
Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more difficult to get university sponsorships, so you have to get creative and come up with a different solution.
There are roughly 2 alternative ways, which you can easily combine:
1. Find companies that would be interested in being mentioned in your survey. For example: if you’re researching brand appreciation, reach out to a brand that you can involve in your research. Your survey will be a form of advertisement that they might be willing to pay for. The money you earn from ads can be used for buying participants at databases, like respondetendatabase.nl.
2. Find companies that have a strong affinity for students. Companies like HUSK (skiing trips) or popular festivals would perfectly fit this category. You could raffle their merchandise or service to attract respondents for your survey.
A student’s example
“I had to find 500 respondents for my survey and my university didn’t offer any help. I was researching brain activation and expected to find results that would scientifically support meditation. Therefore, I started looking for companies involved in meditation. After ringing several parties, I found three enthusiastic companies! They shared my survey with their clientele, without success, but paid a few hundred euros! All in exchange for mentioning them in my survey. I then approached an agency that delivered 500 filled out surveys within a few days.”
If there is one thing that you can learn from this example, it’s that it can be easy, but you have to be smart about it.
All the methods mentioned in this article can be used to find participants. It’s probably best to try all of them. If you need more than 300 participants it’s strongly advised to find sponsors. Otherwise, your social network, active Facebook groups and SurveySwap will probably suffice!
Take into consideration that the cheapest option isn’t always the best one, because it might cost more time and energy. If you have generous parents or a well-paying part-time job, you can always look at the costlier options. For more information about finding participants through payments, check out our other articles.