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Online Panel Recruitment Through Social Media

NPR Listens is NPR's online audience advisory panel. This group of audience members, from across the United States and overseas, have volunteered to share feedback with NPR and NPR member stations via surveys, discussion forums, dial tests, and other kinds of research projects. As NPR Listens has grown, we've thought a lot about who we want join the panel and where to find those people.

It has always been important to us to have a panel that is representative of the many different kinds of listeners who make up the larger NPR audience. When social media came along, it presented an interesting opportunity for us to recruit new panelists. But we questioned whether social media recruitment was even a good opportunity?

In making our evaluation, one key area we considered was listener loyalty to NPR. Some ways of recruiting panelists will pull in primarily core audience members. Other methods pull in a broad spectrum of audience members who vary in how much time they spend listening and how reliant they are on NPR. We figured that if we recruited through social media, most of the new panelists we would find would be core listeners. For example, there are lots of ways people can "accidentally" find themselves listening to NPR on the radio without trying or intending to. But it takes some amount of effort and dedication to become an NPR follower on Facebook or Twitter (and then to see and follow a survey invitation).

Another key area we considered was demographics and psychographics. As we've built NPR Listens, we've recruited from many different sources (e.g., on the radio, online, via podcasts, via in-person events.) The groups of people we've recruited from these different sources have unique demographic and psychographic profiles. As our panel has grown, we've found it critical to understand who is on our panel currently and what kinds of people we would likely add by turning to one recruitment source versus another. For instance, when we considered whether to recruit through social media, we were hoping to increase the amount of younger listeners on our panel. We knew that historically our online recruitment efforts had been conducive to bringing younger listeners onto our panel, so we believed that social media would be a better place to focus recruitment efforts than other offline alternatives we were considering at the time.

Sandra Lozano is a research analyst supporting programming research and manages NPR's online audience advisory panel, NPR Listens.