How to Participate in an Online Bulletin Board Study

Danielle Marbellagas
Dec 06, 2018

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 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.

Touted as an alternative or even a supplement to the live focus group, an online bulletin board community platform allows participants to log in and contribute to various discussions. Participants can choose to answer questions at any time and data tabulation is asynchronous until the study is finished. Bulletin board research is especially advantageous when companies need to gather opinions from participants across a wide geographic area or with varying levels of availability. Respondents can reply to each other and the moderator when it’s convenient, which makes involvement easier and more cost-effective.

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

  • 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 without the time-pressure that is usually 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, it's effective to follow these three basic steps.


Find A Market Research Company or Recruiter

There are a lot of online market research companies and it can be difficult to decide which one to apply for. Market research recruiters can ease you along the process and help you connect with the companies most suitable for you. Each recruiter 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 have applied for that particular study.

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 often look for respondents via social media, email, website ads, print media, or wherever they believe their most engaged customers or target demographics might be. Use this to your advantage and prove your expertise by sharing insights to others whenever you can. Once you catch their eye and fit their mold, they won't hesitate to reach out.


Take a Screener Survey

In order for companies and researchers to determine if you would be a good fit for an online bulletin board study, the next step would be to complete a screener which is a series of questions that determine how well you fit the profile of participant they’re looking for. When being accepted to participate, it often depends on the size of the study, how many other respondents have been or need to be recruited, and how well you and other prospective respondents match the profile.

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.

Providing recruiting agencies with more detailed demographic information about yourself during the screening increases your chances of finding bulletin boards where you’ll be selected. 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. If you volunteer additional information such as your technology use/ownership, political affiliations, family size, age range, medical conditions/prescriptions, and so on, they'll have a greater idea of how you'll fit into a study where requirements are often strict, concise, and pre-determined.


Understand Market Research Incentives

It's possible to make money as a market research respondent but to do so, you must understand market research incentives. Market 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. It all depends on what you are willing to do and what the research company is willing to do for you.

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 because it limits what they could purchase with it.
  • 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.
  • Some incentives will pique your interest but others will be of lesser value to you so it's important to read the fine print of the contracts beforehand to avoid wasting time on a study that you wouldn't benefit from.


If you are invited to participate in market research online, the researchers will often outline further criteria for the bulletin board study. While this will only truly matter once your are chosen to participate, it's good practice to keep this in mind so that you avoid being blindsided by details that were not revealed earlier on.

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, 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 bulletin board market research? If you don't know where to start looking for openings, Civicom® Marketing Research Services can connect you with various companies looking for a wide range of respondents for their important studies. If you're a market researcher, our CiviSelect® service can help you find these valuable respondents that are the backbone of your qualitive research.

Contact us today to find out more information.

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