Social Media

SurveySocial: The Evolution of Surveys in the digital age

When people ask why surveys “don’t work” – yield low response rates, vague comments and no clear results – I ask them to reflect on another mode of communication that does work: Social Media. Surveys and social media are both used to gather and share opinions, feelings, and ideas, yet they have long had opposite trajectories.

One of these modes has captivated the world in just a few years with billions of people using it daily, while the other mode has become a painful annoyance that requires larger and larger rewards to draw fewer and fewer participants. Few of us would put off sleep in order to fill out just one more online survey, yet a majority of people tune into their social media accounts in bed, often the last thing before they sleep and the first thing after waking up. Why is one form of human feedback wildly successful and the other a costly and time-consuming exercise with minimal results?

But now comes the game-changer: researchers and practitioners are combining the science of surveys with the psychological principles inherent in social media to generate massive enthusiasm and engagement in their survey practices. There is deeper training available to master and apply these practices, but here are just 5 of the reasons why “Survey Social” works amazingly well:

1. Real-time while it still matters vs. Autopsy to find out what went wrong

Cruise lines send surveys to passengers weeks after their cruise ends, asking about details that can no longer be recalled. Students are asked to evaluate a course on the last day of training when their feedback can’t be used to improve their course experience. Typical surveys are AUTOPSIES: figure out what went wrong after the event is over. Social media is used, however, when we need opinions in real-time and meaningful feedback. Best survey practices are now done in near-real-time to also gather meaningful and actionable feedback.

2. My voice was heard vs. Hello, anyone out there?

Aside from the automated “Your survey responses have been received, you may now close your browser”, we rarely know what happens with our responses to surveys and how our feedback was specifically used. Why would anyone respond to a similar survey in the future? However, you know where you stand when exchanging tweets and posts based on the responses (or non-responses) received. These exchanges touch a real human need to be heard. “Closing-the-loop” is a recent survey practice that never fails to deliver on that same human need.

Learn how to apply all social media principles to your customer feedback tools and training evaluation processes. Register HERE!

3. What you say makes a difference vs. What you say makes no difference

You will rarely ever know how your responses on a survey compared to others and what impact your comments had. When reading and responding to conversations in social media, you quickly learn who agrees or disagrees with your opinions and can gauge whether you are influencing or impacting others in the discussion. Best practices with surveys now ensure that participants know how their opinions compared with others.

4. Conversational vs. One-sided

Surveys are often lengthy and time consuming, containing every conceivable question that needs to be asked by every department within an organization – because they’ll never get another chance to talk to their customer, right? Apparently it is our duty to spend our time answering their questions. Social media works because it is a series of short conversations, an ongoing exchange of opinions, ideas, and feelings on everyday matters. “Bitesize surveys” are becoming the preferred method for turning surveys into engaging conversations with customers and members.

5. Intrinsically motivating vs. Extrinsic rewards needed

When you post to your Facebook account or send a tweet, there is no need to add “if you reply to my post I’ll enter your name in a drawing to win a Tablet.” The desire to respond is already baked in because social media addresses our psychological needs. Typical surveys lack intrinsic rewards and so external rewards must often be given. Surveys assume participants will always be willing to take THEIR time to help OTHERS in the future.  However, applying all the ideas above (and some deeper training) you will find that the process itself becomes intrinsically motivating and the best incentives cost nothing.

Don’t continue to ride outdated survey practices to rock bottom.  Apply the principles that work in social media to your existing surveys to gather valid and plentiful feedback from your customers. It will be a game-changer for your organization.

* Co-author Gregg Baron, CMC, is President of Success Sciences.