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Product testing isn’t something that I ever thought was an activity that I could be a part of. There are several programs that make you adhere to a strict set of rules, which is probably why I never knew about them. There are also programs like Influenster that encourage you to go online and talk about your samples. Here are several programs that I currently participate in.

Influenster
Probably one of the most well-known free sample programs. It was actually a friend who tipped me off on this program. For Influensters, the more social media impact you have, the more likely you will be sent a box of products to test. Though I am pretty active on social media, it took me a while to be considered for VoxBoxes (this is what they call their box of samples). As a member of their site, you are required to actively participate in rating different products. Each rating goes towards unlocking categories (represented by Badges). These categories help Influenster narrow down what kind of box to send you. For example, if you review many bridal-related products, you might be eligible for their next bridal VoxBox. I don’t know how many VoxBoxes have been made available to the public but I’ve been lucky and qualify for one every 2-3 months. My Boxes almost always consist of a grouping of cosmetic goods (many are full-size!) and one snack. At the end of each test period, you have to answer a survey about your VoxBox or you will no longer be eligible for future boxes. Additionally, even though several boxes may overlap, it appears you can’t qualify for more than one within a given period of time.

I’m very happy with Influenster and would absolutely recommend the program to my friends. While it does take a while to review enough items to fully unlock Badges, I think it’s worth it because I’ve been very pleased with all the samples I’ve tried. I’ve found a new favorite snack and tried items I’d never even thought of buying.

L’Oreal Consumer Testing
Unlike with Influenster, L’Oreal’s testing is kept under wraps. Users cannot talk about what products they test but I’ve seen a lot of people blog about the compensation (make-up products) they get for completing tests. Not surprisingly, the compensation is in L’Oreal (or sister company) products. For any product tests available, you log-in to your page to see if any surveys are open. I’m not gonna lie, you’re gonna face a lot of rejection! The surveys are very specific and only those within their testing guidelines will qualify. Answer honestly and you will eventually find yourself on a test. I’ve been a member for about 4 months and only recently passed a survey. I look forward to testing the product.
[Note: I only do mail order testing. They have several offices but I am not close enough to any of them to participate in in-person panels.]

It’s been pretty frustrating taking surveys and getting disqualified for out-of-test-scope answers but you’re getting free products in the end… I recommend checking the site several times a day (especially in the mornings) because only available tests will show up. I’m sure I’ve missed a ton of surveys!

I got in a week-long study and didn’t get an end-of-study questionnaire (which you have to fill out to get compensation). I was unable to get anyone to answer my question regarding why I didn’t get a questionnaire. Honestly, it was maddening trying to get a L’Oreal rep to answer an email or return a phone message. In the end, it turned out that the person in charge of answering emails was on vacation/out of office for that week. Things were sorted out (there was a mistake on their end) and I ended up getting compensation about two weeks later. Studies since then have gone very smoothly.

BzzAgent
I just joined this one and it seems like they send one product at a time at a more frequent rate, compared to Influenster offering a box of products every few weeks or so. I’ve gotten in two product tests so far but I’m not sure how they rate users. You have to use social media in order to get a higher “BzzScore” which you need in order to qualify to test more products. They don’t tell you why you get certain ratings for your SM postings so that’s pretty frustrating. I just SM as much as I can within the first week and just wait for another product I can test.

[Update] Product testing with them is pretty slow and I find that it’s harder to get into a study with BzzAgent than it is with Influenster. I’ll again say that the Bzz rating system makes no sense and is probably flawed. They will reject any kind of Bzz that isn’t in a certain format. I might end up quitting this program because I get so much more out of Influenster even if qualifying for a box takes more work.

Firmenich
This is an in-person panelist position. Firmenich is one of the top companies for producing fragrances and flavors. Almost weekly, I go in and test fragrances for this company and it is so much fun! A friend referred me and though we test on different days, we sometimes run into each other for special tests. I actually wish flavor testing was weekly because I love eating new things!

Other
In some cases, we aren’t allowed to talk publicly (i.e. on social media platforms) on what we test. There are a ton of tester opportunities out there but oftentimes, you have to wait for a friend to refer you. Last winter, thanks to a mailing list acquaintance, I participated in a one-time test for a popular footwear product. Though in emails leading up to the study we were told we’d have to return the product, we actually got to keep them as thank you gifts! It was awesome and I’m crossing my fingers that they will do a similar study this winter.

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