2 minute read

Making surveys can be deceptively easy.

Platforms like Google Forms, Surveymonkey and university bought services like, Qualtrics makes surveys cheap, quick and easy to write.

However, doing research online comes with its own potential methodological problems. And doing research on specific platforms come with specific problems.

Helpfully Shatz (2016) has provided a 7 step guide for effective recruitment on Reddit.

1. Find an appropriate subreddit for your study

Just as you have to find appropriate sources when writing a report you need to search for an appropriate place to post your survey. Find a places which fits where users are more likely to be interested in it. Though you should be acutely aware of potential self selection bias by respondents. Also consider reach by choosing a subreddit with a large subscriber population.

2. When necessary post on other subreddits

Sometimes posting in one subreddit isn’t enough. When this happens consider posting in multiple ones. Although when this is done it is important to analyse the results separately to see if there is any marked difference between answers before aggregating the data.

3. Highlight the nature of your survey and use relevant language

When asking for participants make the topic of your survey as clear as possible and use language which is understandable and relevant to the subreddit you’re posting in. Be succinct, but also be aware Reddit allows for quite a lengthy post title. Plus you can check out previous posts and see what type of language they have used in the past.

4. Optimise by posting at specific times and days

You can optimise response rates by posting at specific times and days depending on the subreddit. Reddit’s userbase is primarily American so 9 AM Eastern Standard Time is a good option. For non-American or more generalist subreddits you can use third party websites like Delay For Reddit or Late For Reddit to find out the most popular time for posts as a proxy for user activity.

5. Note that demographics may change throughout the day

Related to the above consideration is that demographics of subreddits will probably change throughout the day. For example, the proportion of North American versus European users will vary depending on the time. However, posts being up for 24 hours may alleviate this issue.

6. Keep it short and concise

The longer the survey, the higher the attrition rate. The golden rule for long surveys is 10–20 minutes. With shorter surveys generally being those which take 10 minutes or less. Plus if a survey is short, state it. Though don’t exaggerate completion time in hopes of decreasing attrition rate. Since it may create community backlash and is not ethically right.

7. Don’t stay silent on your posts

After posting your survey link continue interacting with the community. Try to answer any question in the comment section and be open to discussion. It’ll increase your credibility as a researcher and may increase participation rates. Plus if you do any follow-up studies it may increase retention rates.

Full citation

Shatz, I. (2016) ‘Fast, Free, and Targeted: Reddit as a Source for Recruiting Participants Online’, Social Science Computer Review, 35(4), pp. 537–549. doi: 10.1177/0894439316650163.

Note: This blogpost was originally posted on Medium in November 2019.