Online surveys are all the rage these days. You are “polled” on many sites as you enter or leave them. You get emails asking you to give your opinions on various topics. And you can see the results of surveys in all sorts of blogs and online news sites. We are being surveyed more than ever before. But can we trust the results of those surveys? Do they tell you anything which can help your online business? Are the results biased in any way?
Social scientists know that in order for a survey to provide relevant and useful information the research has to be conducted carefully, the questionnaire has to be professionally structured and – crucially – you have to get the right participants. If you run an online business selling lawnmowers for instance, your survey on the best one to buy should really only involve people who have bought lawnmowers and who probably have experience of using several different ones. Otherwise your results could be nonsense if the data includes the opinion of people who have never bought a lawnmower. In surveys, participation from the right people is crucial.
New research has looked at this issue and discovered that the key to participation in online surveys is the reputation of the sponsoring company – not the kind of survey tool that is used. It seems that you can use any survey tool, as long as the reputation of the company asking the questions is high. In other words, if you want to get meaningful results from any online polling your company does you need to establish your reputation BEFORE you do your survey. Concentrate on branding, get people on social networks saying you are brilliant and then you will get effective participation in your surveys.
However, many companies appear to try looking for the best online survey tool first. They worry about whether one kind of software will produce better results than another. Indeed, many companies even go to the lengths of having survey tools produced specifically for them using bespoke programming. But it doesn’t matter; what matters first is the reputation of the company doing the survey.
The only time the survey tool matters is when the sponsoring company is not known. If no-one knows your business then the potential participants want to know ho reliable and trustworthy the survey software is. In other words, the reputation of the online survey tool only matters when your business is unknown.
If people already know about your business the only way you are going to get meaningful participation in your online surveys is to improve your reputation. It is yet more evidence that you should always concentrate on building your business reputation.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+