5 QUICK ways to SPOT a FAKE Online Panel Company!!

ONLINE PA NELSLast week I chanced upon the DVD for the Hollywood movie “Catch me if you can” – although impressed by the theatrics of the protagonist it struck me as to how innovative thieves have become. No matter how many new tamper-proof technologies you introduce the thieves are one step ahead. One of the BIGGEST head ache MR companies have is to identify a GENUINE online panel partner. The article illustrates 5 SURE SHOT QUICK ways you can utilize to spot a fake panel player!!!


90% of the new online panel companies mushrooming have their ‘ABOUT US’ page empty.

What I mean by being empty is that they do not have any information as to who the owners of the companies are.

Most of the times the ‘ABOUT US’ page will have PLAIN ENGLISH – telling about how great their company is and how they have a global reach!!!!

People do business with People!!!

We don’t buy products from someone we don’t know – this holds true in the business world also. If someone has left no credible information on the ‘ABOUT US’ page it simply means they don’t have anything worth saying. It also means that they are going to fudge your data and simply VANISH away once the payment has been realized.

I ALWAYS follow this as one of my THUMB RULES – if I don’t know who am I doing business with – I don’t do business with them at all!!

Ask yourself – Is it worth doing business with someone who is going to give CRAP data???

All online panel companies whose owners are unknown should be treated as phishing scams!!


Is your online panel vendor following strict market research guidelines??

Most of the online panel companies opening shop are actually not bounded by any such guidelines – SIMPLY as they are not part of any MR forum like ESOMAR, CASRO or MRA.

First step is to identify whether they are a member of the above MR forums or not.

Second step is to go to the ‘member’ section of these forums and see whether the vendor is actually registered or not.

You would be SHOCKED to know that there are some online panel companies who put FALSE claims on their website about their association with MR forums. Beware of such companies and please do report the same to the concerned MR forum.

Association with such MR forums shows the commitment that the vendor has about following best industry practices.

You should STRICTLY instruct your own vendor manager not to deal with any online panel provider who is not part of any MR forum. After all if something goes wrong the client is going to catch hold of you and not your panel vendor.

Ask yourself: if the panel vendor is not willing to contribute USD 300-400 annually to be a part of these MR forums – how are they going to cater to your multi-million dollar projects!!!

You are what people you are working with!!


I would share with you a very dark secret of many ‘GLOBAL’ online panel players!!!

There are many panel vendors who claim that they have multiple office locations – primarily done to create an image of a very large company.

In actuality these panel vendors have VIRTUAL OFFICES bought through REGUS. Although it is not wrong to have a virtual office but if they hide this fact from you – it puts a BIG question mark on their credibility. Especially if the online panel vendor has been in the business for long. Virtual offices are a very good option for newbie not for established players.

Even before you setup your first introduction conference call with your panel provider – ASK for the credentials of the people running the show. Ask for what kind of work experience they have and is it relevant in the online panel industry.

I GUARANTEE if you follow the above step in most of the cases you would save time rather than waste it in hearing marketing crap from the panel vendor.

Today it is very easy to know the credential of a person by simply searching and looking for their profile on LinkedIn. Fully utilize the immense potential the LinkedIn platform provides to analyze the credential of an online panel provider.


If I have to conduct a ‘GEN POP’ online market research study in USA – I would but naturally go to a known player like SSI, Research Now, and Toluna etc.

As they have proven their credentials – with regard to providing quality services for most of the common target groups.

I am really intrigued by the fact that how come researchers even think about buying online panels from a new unknown player when there are many established players providing quality respondents at very affordable rates.

When we talk about hard to reach target audience I have personal experience that you need considerable resources for the same.

I am dead sure that a new online panel company would not have the kind of support ecosystem to cater to such target audience.

I would be cautious if a new player is offering let’s say healthcare panel. As to create a quality healthcare panel even bigger players find it tough.

The argument is very simple – if it is easy I would go to an established player – so for a new player it is common sense to bring forth a unique value proposition. Therefore if a new panel provider has nothing NEW to offer it is better not to engage them.


I was actually amused looking at some new online panel companies putting up FAKE recommendations.

A genuine recommendation would always state the name of the recommender as well as the company for e.g. Mr. John Wayne from Startrek Media has applauded our efforts and not like General Manager of a Global MNC likes our quality.

Now why is having a recommendation so IMPORTANT???

Ask yourself – when you buy a car or a new mobile phone – you probably would scrounge the internet for information related to the product or you would try to get feedback from friends and family. But ALAS for your multi-million dollars critical market research project – you don’t ask for recommendations – WHY???

Recommendation is one of the easiest ways to ascertain the credibility of an online panel provider.

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ask for recommendation!!!

Now you have a choice. You can comment, share, or implement. I prefer if you implement, but I’ll appreciate all three – Akshay Kanyal


  1. Great article. I also find that LinkedIn company information is extremely useful when evaluating new panel providers. To address the problem you discuss in your article, my company has developed a web-based application called PanelFinder.com.

    • onlinemr says:

      Thanks Alex for the feedback!

      I am interested to know more about panelfinder we can probably connect over skype (akanyal).


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