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Facebook recruits for user research…on Facebook

Apple always gets flack for not conducting user research (even though that’s a myth — it’s market research they don’t conduct). Apparently Facebook doesn’t feel the same way about keeping their research under wraps. I recently happened upon an interesting page on Facebook where they allow people to apply to participate in user research studies, surveys and telephone interviews — Facebook User Research.

I’ve done a lot of research for a lot of clients, and I’ve never seen anyone take this approach before. Typically you get better, more valid data when not using participants that have self-selected. Still, with Facebook’s huge user base, they can probably get away with a participant application without having much of a negative effect on the research results. I have to wonder how many people have applied.

If anyone at Facebook reads this blog, or if you’ve previously been a participant in one of Facebook’s studies, I’d love for you to shine some light on their research methodologies.

I know Facebook has a Design and User Research department, but I’ve never met anyone who works there, or gotten any insight into their UX practices. I was able to find a couple (1, 2) of their UX Researchers on LinkedIn though. And for Apple? No beans.

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  • http://foolproof.co.uk Tim

    Hi Whitney,

    We used Facebook for recruiting and user research really successfully on an iPhone app co-creation project with a client in the UK. Not exactly the same as what you mention here, but an example of how Facebook can facilitate user research, on an enviable scale.

    http://www.foolproof.co.uk/clients/direct-line/
    http://ads.ak.facebook.com/ads/FacebookAds/RBS_Insurance_CaseStudy.pdf

  • http://www.perfecttuna.com Samantha LeVan

    Curious, I “applied” for FB’s user research and a couple things bothered me:

    1. They don’t ask what profession I’m in. While this is mostly a non-issue, people who are UXers, UI designers, and in a similar industry should at least be screened. It’s their call if those people are included, but it’s worth noting so the feedback is personal rather than “designy”.

    2. Participants sign their lives away. There’s no privacy in participating and video footage can be used for marketing. They don’t ensure your name is private except from third parties. I’ve always believed participation should be as anonymous as possible. Facebook disagrees.

    3. Lastly, I received a lovely email that demonstrates their form code is a little out of date:

    “Dear Sender:

    Facebook has changed its corporate email address domain from @facebook.com to @fb.com.

    Your message has been delivered to the intended recipient, but please update your contact details with @fb.com for future correspondence. You will not receive this message again if you utilize @fb.com. We will not be forwarding any email sent to @facebook.com corporate email addresses past January 5th, 2011.

    Regards,
    Facebook”

  • http://www.apogeehk.com Daniel Szuc

    We have used Facebook as a tool to find recruits for research (understand this is for Facebook research specifically)

    Your post got me thinking about recruitment and suggest there is a need to revisit how profiles are written, where we recruit from etc in a socially connected, more technologically aware world.

    rgds,
    Dan

    • http://jillchrist.wordpress.com Jill Christ

      Yes, thank you Whitney for your post. Like Daniel Szuc commented, it speaks to this idea of where we recruit from in a world that is more socially connected, and more technologically aware than ever before.

      I’d love to continue this conversation. Here is a Radio Johnny podcast on “Recruiting Usability Participants using Social Media” that I helped record with three colleagues of mine who are experienced with using sites like Twitter and LinkedIn for recruiting usability participants. Would love to know your thoughts!

      http://johnnyholland.org/2010/11/15/radio-johnny-recruiting-usability-participants-via-social-media/

      • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog whitney

        I’ve recruited for user research on Facebook and Twitter for the last few years, and would love to chat about it with you anytime. What I meant to comment on specifically with this blog post was that Facebook is recruiting for its own user research using its own site… I don’t think I’ve seen other businesses do that.

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  • http://hutterdesign.blogspot.com/ Lea Ann Hutter

    Hi Whitney,

    Gabriel Trionfi was a guest speaker at a class I recently took at Stanford called “How to Think Like a Designer” taught by Barry Katz, fellow at IDEO. Gabriel shared his User Research methodology and some of his Facebook experiences, which I blogged about here http://hutterdesign.blogspot.com/2010/11/design-thinking-with-barry-katz-at.html