How to Participate in an Online Bulletin Board Study

Are you an avid sports fan immersed in stats, players, and teams? Do you find yourself marking the calendar with video game releases and updates? Are you struggling to find an optimal medication as someone with seasonal allergies? Or do you make an effort to keep your kids engaged in reading?

Regardless of which tribes you identify with or common problems you experience, there is probably a company out there that’s interested in you as a market research respondent. Market researchers work to uncover unique insights about what drives consumers’ opinions and choices so that businesses can make decisions informed by data instead of assumptions or their best guesses.

A great way to become involved in market research for longer than an hour or two is to participate in an online bulletin board study. Online bulletin boards are private community platforms where you and other participants can post responses and participate in activities. In some bulletin boards you can view and respond to other participants’ posts in a shared forum space, while in others only the researchers can respond and pose questions.

As a market research respondent, you’ll find that online bulletin boards offer some distinct benefits:

  • You can participate in market research online and don’t have to travel somewhere.
  • Your feedback will be focused on an industry or company that you are already highly engaged with.
  • You will have time to thoughtfully consider your feedback; there is not the same time-pressure that is present in a focus group or interview.
  • Incentives are higher than for other types of market research such as surveys.

To find a bulletin board study and participate in market research online, you may need the assistance of a recruiter to become paired with companies that are targeting consumers like you.

To earn money by participating in market research, follow three basic steps:

1. Find a market research company or recruiter.

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There are a lot of online market research companies and recruiters. Each will have slightly different requirements, incentives, and volumes of potential work. For instance, the recruiting service respondent requires that you create an account before browsing available studies. Research briefs explain what types of people the company is hoping to involve, what your time commitment would be, pay rate, and how many other applicants a study has attracted.

Market research respondent recruiting is done by multiple types of businesses:

  • Market research companies conducting the studies themselves (e.g., Ipsos).
  • Market research services companies that provide the web-based platforms, applications, and/or software facilitating the studies (e.g., Civicom).
  • Market research recruiting agencies which exclusively recruit respondents for studies (e.g., Fieldwork).  

Companies may recruit you directly in some cases. They sometimes look for respondents via social media, email, website ads, print media, or wherever they believe their most engaged customers or target demographics might be present online and in-person.

In order for companies and researchers to determine if you would be a good fit for an online bulletin board study, they will ask you to complete a screener, or series of questions to determine how well you fit the profile of participant they’re looking for. Being accepted depends on the size of the study, how many other respondents are recruited, and how well you and other prospective respondents match the profile. 

For example, if the screener survey showed that you were a 75% match, you might be recruited if the company was hoping for 500 participants. However, if there are a lot of very qualified applicants for a study with just 50 participants, your chances obviously decrease.

Providing recruiting agencies with more detailed demographic information about yourself also increases your chances of finding bulletin boards where you’ll be selected. For instance, if you only share your race, age, location, marital status, educational level, and annual income, it will be more difficult to match you with a study compared to volunteering information such as your technology use and ownership, political affiliations, family size and age range, medical conditions and prescriptions, and so on.  

2. Take a screener survey. 

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Market researchers are looking for insights into how particular groups of people respond to different concepts, stimuli, experiences, products, or services. Alternatively, they’re hoping to uncover novel ideas from existing customers or people within their target market so they track customer ideas and experiences using market research online communities. Researchers use a screener, or series of questions, to determine if you qualify to participate.

Screeners may be minimal or nonexistent for short surveys but are more in-depth for MROCs because they operate on a long-term basis and have a narrower focus. For instance, being a parent of an infant may not qualify you for a MROC that is interested specifically in the motivations and opinions of young, city-dwelling parents that buy pre-prepared baby food.

3. Understand market research incentives.

market-research-incentives-online-bulletin-boardMarket research incentives vary widely depending on the firm conducting the studies and the degree of time and involvement required. As you might expect, completing a high volume of mini surveys can slowly accrue to earn you a few low-denomination gift cards on sites like Swagbucks or Inbox Dollars. In contrast, participating in a MROC or focus group could pay around $50 - $150 per hour.

Here are the types of incentives market researchers usually offer:

  • Cash via check, direct deposit, or PayPal - If you participate in market research in-person, you may receive payment the same day. However, for online market research, payment is likely to be delayed by a week or more and distributed by check, direct deposit, or PayPal. For MROCs, most companies will set up expectations upfront regarding how payment is tied to contributions (e.g., you must post X number of times per month or participate in X number of activities). They may offer additional incentives within the MROC, such as rewards for completing certain challenges, remaining on a leader board for a certain amount of time, or completing a team activity.
  • Gift cards - Some companies offer Visa, MasterCard, or merchant gift cards such as Amazon instead of paying you directly in cash. Gift cards typically match the amount you would expect to receive in cash but for some people they feel like a greater nuisance to use than cash.
  • Points-based incentives with cash values - Points systems are more common with short, one-time online market research such as surveys. For example, American Consumer Opinion and Inspired Opinions offer points which must be accumulated to a certain level before they can be redeemed for a minimum $10 PayPal deposit or gift cards in $10 increments.
  • Fees - If you are recruited to a company’s study indirectly, the intermediary may take a processing fee from your payout. For example, Respondent takes $1 plus a 2.9% processing fee out of the funds deposited into your PayPal account.

If you are invited to participate in market research online, the researchers will then outline further criteria for the bulletin board study. Criteria might include some or all of the following:

  • What activities and assignments you are required to complete (e.g., take and upload photos of a shopping experience; participate in sort and rank activities; post to a discussion forum a minimum number of times)
  • What privacy settings will be in place (e.g., if you can view or respond to other members’ posts)
  • What type of non-disclosure agreements you are required to sign
  • If geolocation will be used to ensure the integrity of your responses (e.g., to confirm that a video was taken at the time and place you’ve stated)
  • How and when your incentives will be paid and what they are tied to

We routinely share our ideas, opinions, and recommendations with family, friends, and acquaintances—and even with total strangers online so why not consider getting paid to share all that with a company or organization and participate in market research online? If you are still in doubt, why not consider getting more information about the subject through a guide on market research online communities?

You may not find an online market research side gig immediately but the market for your opinions, feedback, and ideas keeps on growing.

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