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How to Recruit Non-User Participants for UX Research Studies
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How to Recruit Non-User Participants for UX Research Studies

How to Recruit Non-User Participants for UX Research Studies

Saviour Egbe
January 25, 2024

In UX research, we know the importance of listening to existing product users. They're the ones using the products, giving feedback, and helping shape the future of the product.

If you’re looking to recruit existing product users, click here for a step-by-step guide.

But have you ever considered the voices of those who haven't jumped on board yet? Or consumers who aren’t currently your target audience? 

These “non-users” are often overlooked, but hold great insights to unlock hidden opportunities and propel product development in unforeseen directions. They are also essential for research if you’re considering expanding into new markets.

So, why might you want to speak to a non-user? Here are three compelling reasons:

  • Fresh Perspective: They come to the table with a clean slate, unburdened by past experiences. This fresh perspective can help identify potential roadblocks, uncover unmet needs, and discover hidden pain points that might be invisible to existing users.
  • Untapped Market: Non-users represent a vast and unexplored territory, potentially harboring new customer segments you never even considered. By understanding their motivations, preferences, and barriers, you can unlock new growth opportunities and expand your reach to previously untapped markets.
  • Validation and Testing: They act as a neutral testing ground for nascent ideas and assumptions. Their feedback can help refine strategy, validate product concepts, and ensure the building of something that truly resonates with a wider audience.

However, reaching and engaging non-users isn't always a cakewalk. Here are some of the challenges you might encounter:

  • Finding the Right Users: It can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Traditional methods might not reach them, requiring targeted and creative recruitment strategies.
  • Motivating Participation: Non-users might not understand the value their input holds, making them less inclined to join the party. Offering incentives and communicating the research's benefits is key to overcoming this hurdle.
  • Avoiding Professional Testers: Sometimes folks will be motivated to show up for sessions, but for the wrong reasons. Professional testers may lie on screeners or even on your test to get the payout from participating. This means bad data and unhelpful insights.

But if we overcome these hurdles, the rewards are immense. By tapping into the wisdom of non-users, we can make more informed decisions, build a better product or service, and ultimately, make everyone happy. 

So how do you recruit non-users for a UX research study?

Let’s jump in!

How to Recruit Non-Users

There are two main options for recruiting non-users: using a paid user panel or recruiting them yourself.

Panel Options

There are a number of paid user panels that can be used to recruit non-users. These panels typically have a large pool of participants who are pre-screened for specific demographics, so you can be sure that you are reaching the right people. 

Here are a few of the most popular paid user panels:

1. is a leading user research platform that connects researchers with a global network of pre-screened participants. The platform offers a variety of recruitment options, including targeted screening, flexible scheduling, and incentive management.

UserInterviews website home page

Pricing Structure: employs a tiered pricing system based on the number of participants, the complexity of the study, and the desired level of support. Pricing ranges from $45 per session for PAY-AS-YOU-GO interviews to $325 per month for the essential plan.

Strengths:'s strengths include its global reach, diverse participant pool, and comprehensive recruitment services. The platform's ability to target specific demographics and provide project management support makes it a valuable resource for complex research projects.

Limitations: While excels in recruiting for general user research, it may face challenges in reaching niche or specialized audiences. Additionally, its pricing structure can be prohibitive for smaller research projects or budget-constrained teams.

2. is another well-established user research platform with a focus on providing high-quality participants for qualitative and quantitative research. The platform offers a range of recruitment services, including targeted screening, participant matching, and project management.

Source: Respondent's pricing page

Pricing Structure:'s pricing model is based on the number of participants for teams that do research with industry professionals and consumer audiences. Pricing ranges from $39 per B2C credit for basic online surveys to $40/per B2B credit per participant for in-depth 1-on-1 interviews. 

Strengths:'s strengths include its focus on quality participants, its wide range of research methodologies, and its customizable project management options. The platform's expertise in qualitative research makes it a suitable choice for projects requiring in-depth insights.

Limitations: may face challenges in recruiting for very specific or niche audiences. International audiences will also be tricky—if you’re looking for users outside of the US, panels thin out really fast. Additionally, its pricing structure may be less attractive for large-scale research projects that require a high volume of participants.

3. Askable

Askable specializes in recruiting participants for in-depth interviews and ethnographic research. The platform's strength lies in its ability to identify and engage with participants who possess specific expertise or niche experiences.

Source: Askable's pricing page

Pricing Structure: Askable's pricing is project-based and tailored to the specific requirements of the research.

Strengths: Askable's strengths include its ability to recruit experts and niche participants, its focus on in-depth qualitative research, and its personalized approach to project management. The platform's expertise in ethnographic research makes it a valuable resource for understanding user behavior and context.

Limitations: Users have been skeptical about the quality of participants available on the platform, which can make it difficult to get reliable, actual product feedback. Participants in turn have also complained about fewer incentives compared to other platforms, communication issues, and a lack of updates about schedules, reminders for interviews, etc.. Additionally, its project-based pricing may not be suitable for research projects with fixed budgets.

4. is known for its focus on usability testing and user experience research. It’s an end-to-end platform that offers not just recruiting, but the ability to carry out moderated / unmoderated tests, and get transcripts and recordings of your sessions. 

Source: Usertesting website's home page

Pricing Structure: employs a tiered pricing system based on the number of participants, the type of testing, and the desired level of support.’s pricing page doesn't actually tell you the cost of a plan upfront—you have to contact their support team for a custom quote.

Strengths: is an all-in-one package. If you just want to buy one tool that includes recruitment, running tests, getting transcripts—this is the one for you. They’ve also accumulated a strong panel over the years, so most general (especially B2C) recruiting requirements can be met. 

Limitations: may face challenges in recruiting for niche audiences, like many of the other platforms. It’s also very expensive—think tens of thousands of dollars upwards. If you don’t have a significant budget, you may have to pass on this one.

5. Recruitment Agencies 

If you’re looking for a niche audience, every region has a set of recruitment agencies that can find people for you. They take some time—a few weeks usually to warm up and recruit—but they can help you get access to orthodontists in Australia, for example.

To find the right agencies, asking researchers for references on communities like Slack groups (ReOps is great) or on Reddit can be really useful.

Recruit non-users yourself

If you are on a budget or need to reach a very specific audience, you can also recruit non-users yourself. This can be more time-consuming, but it can also be more rewarding, as you can have more control over the recruitment process.

Engaging with potential participants in their natural environments, whether physically or digitally, can be highly effective. This approach could involve attending industry events, posting flyers on relevant online forums, or reaching out to individuals on social media platforms.

The key is to identify where your target users hang out.

1. Target specific online communities and forums

 If you identify online communities and forums on platforms like Reddit, Quora, Discord and Slack that are frequented by individuals who fit the profile of your non-user target audience.

You can find these by googling your target audience and “community” (e.g., “UX research communities”). Most communities have tens if not hundreds of groups you can engage with. 

Start by participating in discussions, sharing relevant content, and politely introducing your research project. If you build relationships, they could develop beyond a one-time research session into long-term sources of feedback.

2. Leverage social media platforms

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great places to find audiences. Facebook groups are quite active, while Instagram can help you target specific users you’d like to speak to.

These can be especially useful for B2C audiences (e.g., people who follow gym trainers, physiotherapists). On Instagram or Twitter, you can post your stories/statuses to pull from your existing following. Alternatively, you can identify and DM individual accounts, but please do so cautiously and thoughtfully.

If you’re DM-ing folks on social media, the process could look like this:

  • Identify people who fit your profile. This could be by looking at users who follow a theme, influencer, or have posted with a hashtag. You can also use Twitter’s search to find who is talking about a certain topic.
  • Thoughtfully DM only relevant folks. No blasting hundreds of people with a generic message. If you find people who are relevant, personalize your message to them—tell them why you reached out to them in particular and how their input could be useful for you. If you offer an incentive, that would be helpful to mention too!
  • Build trust. Send a link to a one-pager about the study or your detailed LinkedIn profile proving that this isn’t a scam! Make sure your profile has a nice happy smiling picture (no skulls or swords please!). Building trust is essential because the users have no idea who you are and whether to believe you.
Here's a template for a social media DM:

Hi [name], I absolutely love your profile—your latest post about […] really caught my attention! I’m running research interviews on [x topic] for [my company] and offering a $X incentive for participating. Here’s info on the study: [link]. Are you open to sharing your thoughts?

3. Attend industry events

Participate in industry events, conferences, and meetups where potential non-users are likely to gather. These can be great ways to hear what the community is thinking about, while getting you face-to-face with potential users.

Use the time wisely—do quick coffee chats and informal interviews. End the chat with the ask to follow-up: “Is it okay if we continue our conversation on [X] another time? I’m running some research on the topic and your insights have been invaluable!”

Make sure to swap contact information and mention any incentives upfront!

4. Ads

If you have some budget, ads can be a great way to draw out the right audience. Depending on where your audience hands out (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram), set up an ads account on the right platform. You’ll need to create basic graphics on Canva explaining (1) who you’re looking for, (2) the incentive you’re offering.

Here are some customizable templates on Canva for ads to recruit research participants! 

Editable Canva template for a participant recruiting ad

5. LinkedIn Outreach

LinkedIn provides a valuable platform for connecting with professionals and identifying potential participants who fit the desired profile. Personalized and compelling messages that clearly explain the purpose of the research and the value of their input can increase the likelihood of participation.

Here are a few tips for messaging potential research participants on social media.

  • Personalize the message: Avoid generic introductions and tailor the message to the individual's background and experience. 
  • Highlight the purpose and value: Clearly explain the purpose of the research and how their input will contribute to improving products or services.
  • Offer incentives: If applicable, mention any incentives offered for participation, such as monetary compensation or gift cards.
  • Provide scheduling options: Offer flexible scheduling options to accommodate their availability and time constraints.
  • Include a call to action: Encourage them to respond by providing contact information or expressing their interest.
Example Message for LinkedIn Connection

Here is an example of a LinkedIn connection message that you can use to recruit non-users.

Hey [Name], I came across your post / profile and [personalized piece]

I’m a researcher at [X]—we’re running a study on [topic] and I’d LOVE to get your input!

Open to chatting?

After you connect with the user, send a thoughtful message if they don’t respond. It can look something like this:

Hey [Name], great to connect!

We’re re-building the [x feature on y product]. Your perspective would help shape the future of [Product Name] and build something that actually resonates with [user group].

If you have a few minutes to chat, please block a slot at this link: [calendly link]

As a thank you, we’re happy to provide a $25 Amazon or equivalent gift card for your time! 

Cheers, Name Role @Company

Final tips

To increase the chances of success in recruiting non-users for research, here are a few tips.

i. Offer incentives

Non-users may not be immediately inclined to participate without some form of incentive. Offering attractive incentives can motivate them to take the time to share their insights.

Offering fair and reasonable monetary compensation for their time and effort is a straightforward and often appreciated incentive. Providing tangible rewards, such as gift cards to popular retailers or discounts on your product or service, can be another effective incentive. 

An easy incentive folks love—Amazon gift cards.

If you’re running international research, here’s a set of incentives available by country.

ii. Communicate why it matters

  • Explain how their input will be used to improve products or services: Clearly explain how their feedback will be used to improve products or services. Emphasize that their insights will make a real difference in shaping the future of the product or service.
  • Demonstrate the impact of their participation on future developments: Showcase examples of how non-user feedback has led to positive changes in the past. Make non-users feel like they are valued contributors to the research process. 

iii. Capture all your data carefully

Recruiting is hard! And expensive. So once you’ve got the calls on your calendar, make sure to record them so you don’t miss a thing.

For analysis, keep a product like Looppanel on the ready! It can take notes, transcribe conversations accurately with sentiment analysis and much more, helping you get to insights 5x faster.

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