I’ve never participated in a focus group, but recently I’ve seen a surge in ads (on Craigslist and other employment sites) promising $50, $100, or more to participate in a focus group. Unfortunately, most of these ads are scams.
First, nearly all these ads ask prospective focus group members to fill out an online survey form, to establish whether they “qualify.” Of course, a brief survey is a reasonable screening requirement for a legitimate company seeking focus group participants.
But what I’ve found, on following the survey links, are complete marketing surveys. Often, these include dozens of detailed questions, often quite intrusive. The surveys are “complete” because there’s no need for any follow-up — there’s no focus group at all, and nobody’s going to pay you for the valuable data you’ve already shared for free.
Second, many of these surveys appear to be designed to simply gather detailed information for resale to others. If you’re lucky, the detailed information you’ve provided about yourself, your family, and your company will be resold to other marketers. You’d feel less lucky if the data is used by identity thieves.
Third, some of these “focus group” ads are clearly seeking to entice people to reveal confidential information about their employers’ business practices. Presumably, the study is being funded or run by a competitor, who’s promising $100 or $150 for a confidential one- or two-hour one-on-one interview in which the employee is expected to divulge detailed information worth hundreds of times that amount.