5 Tips for an Effective Consumer Survey

Businesswoman with smart phone

We are in an age when not only is content king, data is king. Earlier this year, Glassdoor published its 25 Best Jobs in America report, announcing that "data scientist" took the number one spot. The term “big data” is everywhere. The reason for this is because our society has access to more connected data than ever before. As a provider of insights for a number of industries, I’m seeing an ever-increasing interest in data across almost every industry, from consumer packaged goods (CPG) to retail to public relations. In fact, the early adopters of DIY research at my company were all agencies and brands, because they quickly recognized the need to leverage consumer data to their clients' or brands' advantage.

To keep up with competition and even stay ahead of the game, PR pros should regularly be leveraging data on behalf of their brands and clients for improved media exposure. While most writers and public relations professionals know that quantitative data helps support an already-strong story, one approach PR pros may not have considered is conducting DIY survey research to help determine what the story should be.

Mark Simon of Toluna Digital
Mark Simon of Toluna Digital

DIY surveys as a tool for communications professionals can inform a number of activities from leveraging data to back up a thought leadership position; to setting the agenda during a crisis before the media can form an opinion; to enabling rapid response public relations by soliciting feedback following a breaking news event in your industry. Here are some important tips to consider when issuing a DIY survey.

  • Frame your story: Have a narrative structure and flow within the survey in order to be able to tell a compelling story that is worth reading. Start with a few broad questions that not only help establish the basics of the audience’s background and point of view, but also to weed out any participants who fall outside the target market. In the remaining questions, drill down deeper into the crux of the story.
  • Keep it short and focused: A common pitfall to avoid is building surveys that ask too much of a respondent at one time, leading to the respondent answering in a haphazard manner, which dramatically diminishes the value of the data. A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of questions to between five and 15.
  • Choose a mobile-versed platform: Use a DIY survey platform with an easy-to-use mobile app to enable participants to complete surveys anywhere, anytime. To keep the survey questions mobile-native, limit the number of open-ended questions to one or two. In an age filled with distractions, it’s important to tailor survey experiences to fit into consumers’ busy lives.
  • Have fun: Enhancing the survey experience for respondents improves the quality and accuracy of the responses. In fact, 76% of survey takers claim that a more interactive experience will keep them more interested and less likely to drop out. One way to check if you have an engaging survey is to take the survey yourself to understand firsthand how a respondent may react. More often than not, the experience may help you realize you need to adjust some questions.
  • Consider data quality: As respondents move toward taking shorter, more efficient surveys, we must adapt and learn to do more with less, with an eye on continuously improving data quality. One way to ensure data quality is to use a survey tool that validates respondents using their email address, blocking fake or disposable IP domains. It’s easy to verify this at the outset of your engagement with the platform.

Survey platforms have come such a long way from a technology standpoint in recent years, making the process of soliciting consumer feedback quick and easy. Leveraging these platforms is typically free and often provides real-time results. And it’s important to note that DIY does not equate to low-quality research: Many DIY survey tools are modeled after those respected and acknowledged by market researchers, so users never have to worry that the data is erroneous. Further, by issuing a survey centered around the brand and market in question, PR pros can gather data on the issues that matter most to them.

Research technology can unlock new potential by helping PR pros and brands leverage consumer opinions. Ultimately, the process of gathering DIY research can benefit a brand, the brand’s media contacts and the brand’s customers, all in one, by generating accurate, actionable data.

Mark Simon is managing director of Toluna North America and Toluna Digital.