How to Recruit User Research Participants from Craigslist

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Consistent communications with users is critical for successful products

Talking to your users should be a consistent part of your product development process, no matter what the stage.  Don’t ever assume you know how people will respond to what you’re doing – humans are complex creatures.  When vetting an idea, it’s a great way to confirm that your solution will be different, and that the problem you’re trying to solve really exists in the world.  When launching, it’s a great way to gauge reactions to user acquisition campaigns/ads as well as your first-time user experience.  When growing, it’s a critical way to ensure your tactics will scale to large audiences.

So how do you recruit people to interview for their insights and feedback?  There are a lot of options, such as UserTesting.com and respondent.io.

But in this post, I’m going to describe a low-cost and perhaps the fastest way to recruit: Craigslist.

Posting a Gig

  1. Pick a city to post in.  If you’re looking to recruit for an in-person interview, post locally or in the cities where you’re willing to go to.
  2. Create a post in the “gigs” section.  I typically choose the “computer gigs” category but you can experiment with others.
  3. Describe who you’re looking to talk to and what you’re asking them to do.
  4. Provide an incentive in both the description and the “pay” input field on the Craigslist form.

Here’s an example from a recent post I made:

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Some Things to Keep In Mind

  1. Keep in mind some biases that Craigslist will introduce to your participant pool: location (because you had to pick a city or multiple cities to post this to) and where you posted this.  For example, I posted the above in the “computer
  2. I find that more people respond when I post the gig to “computer gigs” (vs other categories like creative or writing).
  3. I find that most people respond to these gigs at night, so expect at least one day turnaround for starting the recruiting process.
  4. Craigslist doesn’t allow  you post links to screener surveys in the post (I used to use a Google Form to filter out people who didn’t meet the criteria of who I wanted to talk to) so make sure you’re clear in your posting what the requirements are.  You might get some fakers still email you, so you might want to think of ways to filter them out before scheduling an interview.
  5. If you feel like you’re not getting enough responses, consider increasing your incentive.  A high level of compensation is $1 per minute of time you’re asking them for, but I’d suggest starting a little lower at first as very few people make $60/hour.
  6. Don’t forget to factor in no-shows.  For example, I posted a gig like the one below in 5-6 cities and in the course of a week, I had 20 interviews scheduled. Only 6 people (30%) actually showed up, even after accepting the meeting invite.  I’d recommend following up the day before or the morning of to confirm they’re coming and remind them of the incentive.

Some Example Results

I posted this ad in both Austin and Craigslist as I’m trying some new meeting scheduling tools.  I had 7 interviews on my calendar within 2 hours!

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Want help recruiting user research participants, or any other parts of the user research process?

Email me: startupproductcoach@gmail.com

Why Production Is The Best Place To Do User Research

Not doing research in Production is like only testing a car with crash test dummies in a laboratory

Getting quality user feedback about your product is hard — it takes time to recruit users, prepare a study, ask the right questions, get people to answer honestly, and then summarize the results into actionable next steps.

But there’s no place as good as Production to get feedback. Talk to your users while they’re using their own devices (computer, smart phone, tablet, etc.) and most importantly, while they’re looking at their own account with their own data. Because there’s nothing like real user data to change feedback.

For example, with HelloWallet, we do a lot of testing before we release changes, but that requires us to either make up test data for user research purposes, or prepopulate prototypes / clickable experiences with fake data that inevitably is wrong for the person who’s looking at it. And they often get tripped up by that, throwing the study off on a tangent.

That’s not my 401(k) balance — I wish I had that much.

Well, I don’t spend that much each month on my credit card but am carrying more debt on it.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t test before getting to Production — you definitely should as it’s cheaper and faster than testing with your live app, but once you do release something, get back out there and ask people what they think when they’re using it in the wild. There’s nothing like that feedback.