How to make an impactful survey without enlisting an army


SurveyMonkey is one of a few resources that make  survey creation easy. Image from Waifer X.

While you may not have the resources to develop a longitudinal research study, it’s still possible to develop an impactful survey that gains the interest of your desired audience and gives you your desired results. A simple survey can achieve success with just a few people and a lot of research, planning, and outreach.

Before you start any kind of survey planning, you must know what your goal is for this piece of content. Are you looking for page views? Links? A new audience? This goal will guide your decisions and help you narrow in on your audience and subject matter. You also need to be realistic about your limitations — do you only have one person working on this? Can you pay for a pro subscription to SurveyMonkey or Typeform or will you be using Google forms? Given your resources, how many people can you get to take the survey?

It’s also important to know how many responses you need (or want) for your desired goal. Be sure to set a timeline with realistic expectations, with the main chunk of time allocated for creating the survey questions. Once you assess your goal and capacity, you can dive into survey ideation and creation.

1. Identify your audience

  • Social Communities – Find communities online that will help you reach your goals. For example, if you want links, these communities should have websites or blogs.
  • Publishers’ audiences – Make a list of people that you want to share your content, and start building relationships with them if you don’t already have one.

2. Research what your audience cares about

  • Use data – Facebook Social Graph, Google Search Operators and other online social research tools can help you figure out what your audience is into, what they are writing about or reading about, and how they are sharing content.
  • What is your audience curious about?–  Comments on articles/blogs, forums, past research and surveys, and op eds can help you figure out what questions haven’t been answered. Narrow down your survey to answer one of these questions or enlighten an area that your audience is curious about.

3. Design, test, repeat

  • Design – Once you know your subject matter, you will need to develop the questions. The survey creation will probably take the most time and you’ll have many, many revisions. Find successful research on the subject matter to get ideas and help frame your survey. Keep the questions clear and concise.
  • Get expert advice – Ask experts in your desired audience for their advice on the survey and if it would be interesting for that community. Find survey experts to make sure the survey is sound and not leading.
  • Constant revising – Even if you are a one-person show in this project, you’ll need to have a group of people willing to review your survey. It may take many revisions.
  • Test Technology – Once you have finalized the questions, set them up in whatever system you are using and have your reviewers take the survey. You’ll probably find ways to improve the questions, or things you left out, like a call to action or thank you page.

4. Execute your attack

  • Warm up your audience – Let your audience and targeted publications know you are about to run a survey. Gain an army out of your audience — people ready and willing to take the survey and share it.
  • Launch with intent – Once you are ready to release the survey, make sure you have planned out what will happen during and after the survey. Are you running blog post to coincide with the survey? Will you have experts do op-eds on the results? Be mindful of who responds and who wants to be involved and be ready to innovate on the spot — you never know what new connections or content this might unveil.

Have you ever created a survey? What was your experience?

Stephanie Echeveste works in community relations for the online programs at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education. Check out this #Edchat survey she created for USC Rossier Online’s Doctor of Education program

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