In this write up, I'll list a few common techniques used to find the very first people you can talk to as potential users
The first and foremost is to have an idea about who you want to talk to. Follow these steps:
After this process (I call it "so what" exercise but people call it "abstraction ladder" because with your repeated challenges your're abstracting away from the first thing that came to mind and trying to get to a fundamental reason).
Once you have gone through this exercise you should have formed a much more informed opinion about the problem you want to solve, and importantly you should have surfaced lots of assumptions you are making. One can categorize those assumptions into the following:
Your task in talking to users is (in)validating these assumptions so that you're left with a list of assumptions that you can stand behind, a much better understanding of the problem, and a concrete understanding of who would need a solution and why would they use it. So, how do you find these people to talk to?
The following is some of the techniques we use at aggregate intellect
Good ol' social media post - the baity kind. Often times I post on social media with a question that is sometimes a little baity: people love to correct you!! eg. "I'm doing some research on using chatbots for customer service and all I see are stupid approaches. Does anyone work on anything interesting?". See, while I know much better, I posed as an uninformed person to get a reaction from people. Then I can see who feels strongly enough to correct me, and then I'll message them directly and see if I can talk to them.
Good ol' social media post - the honest kind. Of course, if the above is too much for you, you could just honestly say that you're looking for feedback and would anyone help you. So, I would say "I'm looking for anyone who works on customer service chatbots for a quick 15 mins call. I'm doing research for an app I'm building". Or even better if I know the problem statement a little more, then I would say something like "I'm looking for anyone who has recently interacted with a customer service chatbot and had a good or bad experience to have a 15 min chat".
Surveys. Sometimes we put out a very short survey asking a few non-leading questions about the problem statement we have, for example about the last time people had to interact with a customer service chatbot. Then at the end we would say, I would love to send you a $10 gift card to talk to you more about your experience. Please leave your email here if you are ok with me contacting you. You could try this without offering the gift card first and if that doesn't work do it again with the gift card. people love giftcards!
Warm introductions. This is the tried and true approach. Go on Linkedin, find people you want to talk to. Figure out which of your 1st order connections are connected to them. Ask for introductions. Repeat for all other physical / virtual networks you're part of
Cold approaches. If all fails, who is stopping you from sending an email / linkedin connection request / etc, politely laying out why you are contacting them, and chances are they might turn out to be nice people. You wouldn't hit 100% of the shots you dont take, eh?