Three Tips That Make Facebook Ads Useful For UX Recruitment

Doing the work before you start, asking for help, and avoiding cognitive bias can help you use the power of Facebook to get the right participants.

Adam Thomas
Jan 26, 2018 · 6 min read

One of the toughest tasks at the beginning of any research study is recognizing what your “Participant Acquisition Strategy” (PAS) is. You can spend hours refining your user research, but if you can’t get people to engage with you… it won’t matter.

What is PAS? Well, it’s just a fancy way of saying “How the hell am I going to get the right people to talk to?” in three letters :-).

As both founder and product strategist, I understand getting the right PAS is difficult. The challenge of getting the right people in the door along with keeping the pipeline flowing during a study if a balancing act.

To help your next project deal with getting a PAS off the ground, I want to offer three heuristics for Facebook Ads.

Before we get there though, we should lay out the situation.

Recently, I had the challenge of trying to get a PAS going for a potential client.

Situational constraints

1) It had to be cheap (little budget)

2) It had to be fast (It was a competition)

3) It had to be anonymous (nobody could know who this was for)

I had to consider those constraints with recruitment constraints

Recruitment Constraints

1) The participants had to be in college

2) They had to be users of a specific feature set of the client’s main competitor

3) Had to be willing to participate for next to nothing

We needed to turn to something that could be cheap and fast, along with being anonymous.

We turned to Facebook (FB) Ads!

Why Facebook ads?

What we consider a “free” service isn’t. You don’t pay for Facebook with cash, you pay with your information. Your likes, dislikes, sentiment data, and even the websites you browse are used for advertising.

Since Facebook Ads tie into how the public company makes money, they have focused on making it a useful platform. As such, it works fast and as alluded to above, has a ton of data on most of us.

I want to give you three heuristics to think about to help your process.

Set yourself up for success

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

You’ll want to make sure you have constraints in mind BEFORE you make the ad. Boundaries will help you keep the research (and the participants you’ll need) in context.

This is a vital part of any PAS.

There are several ways to do this:

Have a good screener prepared to understand the persona you want.

The key to any screener — throw in methods of disqualifying. Your ad is going to bring in strays! Anywho, this is what you are going to link to, so it needs to be right :-D.

Make sure the incentive structure makes sense

For this project, cheapness was key. Break out that old business book with the chapter on elasticity and figure out just how little you can afford to pay potential participants. As with anything YMMV!

Prepare the interview script beforehand

Get in there and figure out what you want before you do anything else. Even with a short cycle to turn in research, it is far better to get three good questions with a day to talk to people than ten bad questions in a month. If you can, get feedback from the product team/leadership and gameplan at LEAST for a few minutes. P.S. This helps with disqualifiers

Know how FB ads work

Photo by Taduuda on Unsplash

The right participant during a study can unlock insights that can push your product to the next level. That is why I encourage you to give Facebook Ads a shot at being the top of the “funnel” in your participant acquisition strategy.

A quick note before we go on, this isn’t a primer on Facebook Ads. If you aren’t well-versed, contact your marketing team ASAP.

If you aren’t careful with Facebook Ads, they can become a huge time/money/resource sink.

Might be worth checking this

Check the pay per option

A small but critical change is changing the “pay per view” option to “pay per click.” You want to match the incentive with the payment, and you don’t care if people look at the ad!

Make sure you use the right channels

FB has several ad channels and by default uses them all.Some examples include Instagram, 3rd Party Ads, The Newsfeed. Each has its pros and cons. The wrong one leads to wasted money!

Use FB speed to your advantage

You can find out the efficacy of an ad very quickly (an hour or so) and move on. FB Ads has a huge dataset to work from, and your ad is a small part of a large pie. Take advantage!

Small bets

Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Don’t INVEST unless you know.

We still owe our stakeholders, and as I mentioned before, it is difficult to explain a huge loss with nothing to show for it.

Make sure you make tiny bets to get the best out of this creepy platform.

Here are some tips to help:

Prepare different ads

As a product person, you know we are dealing with a complex system when we talk advertisement. Jay Abraham once mentioned he got 33x results by changing a single word. In the spirit of massive change, have plenty of iterations ready to go. A tool like AdEspresso will get you started.

Invest a small amount of money first

Facebook allows you to spend 1 dollar a day for ads. Take advantage of the power of a dollar here and get looks for your ads on the cheap.

Chase good money! Don’t invest in an ad unless it performs.

The beauty of FB ads is the quickness in which you can check on how fast it works. Give it a few hours and see what your performance is. The average on the platform is 1.73 per click, more than likely you can do better than that.


  • Set yourself up for success
  • Know how FB ads work
  • Small bets

As product people, our primary task is to shape the conditions for other teams to do their work. We are an investment for organizations who want to make an impact on the user base of the products they create.

So, as much hectic our jobs can be, we can’t forget our primary role in companies starts and ends with understanding the right user. That is why finding and sourcing participants for research studies are worth thinking about and investing resources.

As both a founder and product strategist, I understand how hard it can be to fetch users in a short amount of time. I also know that is how UX work “falls off” due to the pressure to “get things done.”

That is where you get penny wise and pound foolish, then you watch your product fail.

As design and product we need to sell our services to the team because this is known as the “soft stuff” and that often gets left behind, mostly to the teams detriment.

Speed helps us sell, and that is where Facebook Ads can help get your work off the ground.

The right participant during a study can unlock insights that can push your product to the next level. That is why I encourage you to give Facebook Ads a shot at being the top of the “funnel” in your participant acquisition strategy.

Adam Thomas

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Adam is afraid of bees. But the future is impossible without them, so he is going to not only have to live with them, but embrace them.

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