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Finding people to talk to you: Twitter, Facebook, and email lists

Deploy Empathy
Deploy Empathy
This was written as part of the rough draft for Deploy Empathy, a practical guide to interviewing customers.
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Once you’ve got the techniques down, you still need to find people to talk to you. 
Thankfully, because of social media, this is much easier than it might have been 15 years ago.
I break out recruiting users into two categories here: social media (for non-customers) and email (for current and former customers).
I don’t recommend doing cold email outreach. Most professionals are used to getting a lot of cold sales emails, and you don’t want your research emails to get lost in that.

On social media
Twitter is a great way to build problem space understanding by finding people who are already talking about solutions to what you might be trying to do. 
I suggest searching for competitors as well as keywords.
Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman’s Sales Safari course goes into this approach in depth. They call it Internet Ethnography.
I won’t go into it in depth here, and will instead focus on specific wording and templates to use.
When you find someone who tweets about how a competitor annoys them in some way, you can reply or DM them. The key is to be as friendly and non-intrusive as possible. DMing is more intrusive, yet can also be better if it’s a sensitive topic. 
If you don’t have a product 
“Hey, I’m thinking about building something related to this. Any chance you’d be willing to have a call with me about it?”
You don’t always have to have a call. (This is not getting you out of calls – but rather that they’re not always necessary.) 
“Can you say more about why this frustrated you? (I’m thinking of building something that helps with this and am eager to learn about what people think of the options already out there.”
If you have a prototype
Try to use “prototype” over “demo” as demo has a sales connotation. Prototype, by contrast, has a bit more of a scientist’s-work-in-progress feel and has a more harmless connotation.
“Hey, I built something to try to make this easier. Any chance you’d take a look at my prototype and give me your thoughts?”
If you have a product
“Hey, I built something to try to make this easier. Any chance you’d take a look it and give me your thoughts? (I’m not trying to sell you, I promise, just want to get feedback.)”
Via DM, you can be a bit more detailed:
“Hey, I noticed you tweeted about [competitor/problem space/etc]. I’m looking to build something in this space. Is there any chance you’d be willing to have a 15-20 minute call with me about it? I’m looking to find 10 people to talk to and am giving them all $25 Amazon gift cards. If so, [here is my calendar link/scheduling info]
Remember that on these calls, you cannot try to sell someone.
That may be a surprise to you, especially if you are in the early stages and hungry for customers. The purpose of these calls is to figure out what you can do to attract more people. The insights you get from this person may help you attract tens or hundreds of other customers through better marketing or product improvements. As hard as it is, be patient. 
If it turns out you’ve built something great, there’s always a chance they’ll want to buy it on their own. So don’t force it. (Even though you understandably want to.)
Facebook groups and listservs
Facebook groups and listservs are another great place to recruit, though they can be much more private and harder to find. 
As with Twitter and Reddit, you want to be friendly and not salesy. The formula is:
  • Introduction to what you’re hoping to learn about
  • Who you want to talk to
  • What the incentive is
For example:
Hi, I’m currently doing some research to understand how people make decisions about buying a new car. I’d like to build something that makes this easier. I’m looking to talk to people who’ve bought a car (new or used) in the past month. If that’s you and you’d be up for a half hour call about this, please message me. I’m looking to talk to 10 people and will give all participants a $15 Amazon gift card.
I suggest reading Arvid Kahl’s work on Embedded Entrepreneurship for more on integrating into particular communities, from Facebook to Slack to Quora.
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Deploy Empathy
Deploy Empathy @mjwhansen

A practical guide to interviewing customers

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