When to Use a Social Media Poll vs. a Survey
A quick trip around the web illustrates how B2b businesses are leveraging the polling/survey capabilities of various social media platforms, in addition to the more traditional services. But before you go to LinkedIn or Survey Monkey to launch your new poll, you should first assess your needs to determine what form of survey you may require – and if you’d be better served by using a third-party survey expert.
For example, if you simply want to put a question forth to gain insight into a trend for a blog post your writing, then a quick poll question may be just the thing. If you are looking to survey a specific set of key accounts, for example, then your challenge may be making sure you have an accurate contact list so your survey will reach your target audience with the right questions. Finally, if you are conducting a market-wide analysis to guide strategic decision-making, then you should evaluate market research firms who can deliver results that are truly significant and unbiased.
Social media platforms have simplified polling capabilities and many B2B businesses are leveraging the online do-it-yourself option to develop surveys and polls. By definition, a poll is a single-question, multiple-choice response – i.e. quick, simple, and inexpensive (mostly free) to deploy. They are great for testing assumptions, gauging reactions and gaining information for content creation. Many marketers use polls to try to find topics that resonate with their audience as a way to generate ideas for strong blog posts etc. The convenience and simplicity of instant polls can turn a simple question into a website traffic generator, if knowing what peers think on the topic is important to the target audience.
The prime example, LinkedIn Polls, allow for comments (visible to all), which provide a nicely nuanced combination of single question, but insightful responses. LinkedIn Polls is a free app where you can create up to 10 polls at a time, each allowing for one question and up to five multiple choice answers (plus the comments). Also LinkedIn provides a means of “sharing” your poll results via Twitter and Facebook. In addition, some analytics; gender, age, and job seniority, are tracked and charted for you.
But the strength of LinkedIn’s polling feature can also be its weakness. Without active promotion, your poll is largely constrained to the LinkedIn Groups you choose to post it to. It does allow for a more targeted pool of respondents than average website polling widgets and may be useful, depending on your purpose and goals.
Surveys, on the other hand, can be more challenging to pull-off without the help of an expert. And while they can certainly be promoted via social media, they are normally deployed using a dedicated tool. The biggest challenge is typically getting enough of your audience to complete the survey. Most participants aren’t willing to spend the time it takes to think about and complete a survey without some form of incentive. Offering to share results is a popular approach but can limit the focus of the survey. Ask too much or go too broad and respondents will lose interest in completing the survey, or worse, make up the answers, even if they are interested in getting the survey results for their own use.
If the survey asks about topics that are considered sensitive in any way, it is usually better to have an independent third-party ask the questions to add credibility to the process. Survey questions need to be carefully crafted. Participants won’t answer questions that are hard to understand or seem biased. Poorly designed questions can lead to misleading results.
Assuming that statistical significance is not a primary requirement, your social networks can be nicely leveraged to help you gain information and insight when conducting informal research. But if you require more rigorous results from which, for example, you can generate qualified leads, then you’ll want to engage an expert third-party survey service.
In summary, polls excel at reaching a larger audience, in a time-/cost-effective manner. They can also lend themselves to greater inaccuracy given the limited nature of the question choices and the effect of having random and unknown audience characteristics If subtleties, depth, and customer engagement are what you’re after, then the better choice is taking the time to develop and deploy a good survey.
We used our own survey approach to survey 150 marketers from major enterprises about some of their marketing challenges. Read the conclusions in our Account-Based Marketing Trends Pulse Report. Click the image to the right to get the results.
What’s your view? How have you used polls and surveys to aid your marketing efforts?