Social media in academia: Using LinkedIn in a mixed-method research design

[Guest post by CYGNA member and Middlesex University PhD student Christa Sathish]

In this post, I will share some tips and tricks deriving from my experience of using LinkedIn in my PhD project. My research project follows a mixed-method, multilevel research design including one survey and six focus groups.

Tips & tricks for using LinkedIn to distribute your survey

Knowing your research methods, target population and potential audience for publications early on is beneficial to build your academic LinkedIn profile. Once you know your target population and potential audience, start adding specific connections benefitting your research to your LinkedIn network. Further tips and tricks on building your network can be found in my previous blogpost: Social Media in Academia: Using LinkedIn to promote your research

Once you have built up a solid network of suitable connections, you are ready to distribute your survey. If you want to give each potential respondent equal opportunity to be chosen and you aim to generalise your findings, you can draw a random sample out of your connections. Alternatively, you can follow a non-random practice if you do not aim to generalise your findings. My research is following a mixed-method design and I conducted an online survey through non-random, convenience sampling.

When you start distributing your survey, I recommend you do not announce your invitation in a post to your whole network. Your response rate will not be good as not all people use LinkedIn at the same time of the day. It can also look a bit like an act of desperation or a SPAM advert. I also recommend not to invite participants by sending invitations when replying to posts. This is bad practice as it looks unprofessional and might appear to be SPAM.

I took the time to send personalised messages to each potential participant through the LinkedIn chat option. This worked well as it meant that participants started to engage with me as well as engaging with my survey.

When my survey came to an end, I decided to announce the final survey call to my whole network which led to a few more completed surveys. I also updated the rest of my audience that had successfully completed my survey and announced the upcoming focus groups. This led to many of my connections to become interested in my research.

Tips & tricks to recruit participants for your online Focus Groups or Interviews

Following my survey distribution, I used the same strategy to recruit participants for my focus groups. However, instead of writing personalised messages in the LinkedIn chat to participants, I developed a spread sheet with potential participants including their professional email address. I then sent personalised emails to each potential participant.

I also advertised my focus group invitation to my whole LinkedIn network, because at this stage my participants were aware of my research and many anonymous survey participants had indicated their interest to participate in the focus groups.

It is beneficial to interact with your LinkedIn network actively while advertising your research. For instance, you might want to like or just re-share posts. Doing this once per day is enough.

How to minimise respondent attrition?

In order to minimise the risk of respondents dropping out I developed a specific strategy which I call the “three ways of confirmation strategy”.

Step 1: Sign Up Form

Let potential respondents register their interest to participate in the focus group using a ‘Sign Up Form’. I recommend using Google Forms.

Step 2: Confirmation Form

Using a Confirmation form, let the participants chose a suitable date. I allowed multiple answers, providing a choice between three dates and different times. Once one group is full you need to change and update the forms. It takes continuous monitoring, using your phone and computer system for notices.

Step 3: Calendar Invitation

Send a calendar invitation including the link to the online consent form as well as the link to the chosen focus group platform. I used Microsoft Teams.

Wait for participants to accept the calendar invitation. Then make sure they fill in the consent form and remind your participants about the meeting. You can simply use the calendar invite ‘Update’ function to remind participants.

If participants join the groups at a later stage, it is possible to simply forward the calendar invite in your outlook account without the need to update the whole group.

This strategy worked very well for me. I had minimal dropouts in my groups and the smallest group consisted of 5 participants.

Conclusion

Overall, I recommend LinkedIn as supportive tool to gather your quantitative and qualitative research data. Before you send invitations and engage with potential respondents, a clear strategy and knowing your population and audience is crucial to use LinkedIn for research successfully.

If you like to keep in touch, I keep updating my research project on ResearchGate.

Videos: ResearchGate, Blogging, LinkedIn and Twitter

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