Having created and published your online survey the next step is to get the right people to participate. How many and who you specifically target will depend entirely on the survey subject and your specific objectives.
For some surveys such as employee surveys there is likely to be natural and available list of respondents, for customer services there may be both a list and a website that can be used to promote a survey. Small surveys may only need to be promoted by word of mouth while others will require considerable effort to form a sample that will provide you with good market research data.
With surveys coming in every shape and size and with objectives that can cover market research, marketing and education a surveys sample requirements can range from general to specific as the population is sliced and diced into categories.
Listed here are a number of methods that can be used either on their own or in combinations so as to complement one another.
One of the most popular methods of promoting an online survey is to send emails that contain a link to the survey to invited respondents using a mailing list. The mailing list could be a list of employees as in the case of an employee survey, a customer list for a customer service survey or a list of medical students from a college for a survey targeting medical students.
Although mailing lists can be obtained that target specific groups or business sectors one must be mindful that a survey invitation could be perceived by the recipient as being spam.
Where the objective of the survey is gather feedback, as in the case of a project post-mortem, it would be feasible as part of the normal correspondence between business partners to include an invitation to complete a survey with the purpose of obtaining valuable feedback.
A method that can be useful for organisations such as charities who wish to target corporate employees is to make an inquiry to a large organisations CEO or customer relations department and ask if they would help promote the survey using their internal email system.
The advantage with using Email is that it is quick and cost effective and the distribution of invitation can be well targeted and controlled.
When sending a large number of email invitations, even if the technology allows it, try to avoid the temptation to email them all in one go. It is a good policy to send your email invitations in batches so that if there are any errors or problems they are identified early and there is an opportunity to make corrections with minimal impact.
To complement an email promotion or where a suitable email list is not available another popular method is to use a single or multiple website to publicise a survey by having a link to the survey on the website.
This method is ideal for survey publishers who already have an active website and where the surveys objective is to gather feedback from unregistered visitors who will not appear on mailing lists as well as registered visitors who probably do.
As an example an online store can gain valuable feedback from the visitors to their website that do not purchase anything as well as those who are loyal and regular customers.
With the practice of purchasing mailing lists being on the decline specialist websites can sometimes offer the opportunity for a survey to be publicised to a well target audience. If for example a survey is aimed at young people then university websites and websites that specialise in music and club culture will have a ready source of that social group that can be tapped into.
If the publisher of a survey does not have any control or access to a suitable website, and depending on the exact nature of the survey, it may be possible to request assistance from those websites that do have the volume of traffic from the target market, or you may want to consider paying a fee to have the survey promoted on specialist websites.
Organic Search Engine Listing
It is possible by including a detailed introduction as part of the survey and making the survey available to search engines that each search engine will index's the survey and it will appear in relevant search results.
How successful this method would depend on a lot of factors and where the publisher has a ready sample source they may not want the survey to be indexed by search engines at all.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising such as Google's Adwords can also be used to promote a survey by creating an advertisement that will be triggered by relevant search terms providing a method of targeting specific groups.
With the sophisticated PPC facilities you are able target your promotion on an international, national or regional basis allowing you to specifically target your geographical as well as interest group.
Surveys are not always conducted with impartiality in mind especially when they are conducted for the purpose of sustaining a particular argument. PPC can be used influence a seemingly impartial survey by directing it at people who hold certain views thereby ensuring support, or opposition, to a particular argument. If the intention is to conduct impartial market research then when using PPC the search terms used to trigger the advertisement will need to cover equally both sides of any argument and serious consideration should be given as to whether PPC is an appropriate method of promotion; in some cases it will be, in others it will most certainly not.
The downside of PPC can be the cost, certainly if your market research is being conducted with minimal funds and the promotion is competing for commercial search terms, however in some cases where the required search terms are non-commercial the promotion can use search terms that can be purchased at minimal cost.
Many online survey websites like www.surveygalaxy.com provide a facility to allow online surveys to be conducted over a telephone where an operator telephones the respondents and through interviews enters the response information on behalf of the respondent.
As with email, telephone lists can be purchased and also like email care should be taken as people are developing a growing aversion to receiving unsolicited telephone calls.
Telephone interviews can prove very effective especially where you need to conduct a survey where the results may be skewed if you relied on a cross section of internet users only. Although the Internet community now represents a broad section of the overall community if for example a survey was concerned with peoples' reluctance to get online, obtaining respondents through online methods would be inappropriate.
Promoting surveys through forums can prove to be effect. Since forums by their nature often attract like minded groups of people matching the right forum with the survey subject can be very rewarding.
However, one should respect the forum rules and forum members can regard requests to participate in surveys made by new members as spamming the forum. Where a person has a history of using a particular forum they can however gain a good response from their fellow members who are asked to participate.
Online press release websites can be used to promote a new survey and can help the survey to establish a good ranking for general search engine inquiries.
Similar to Forums Blogs also offer an opportunity to promote a survey. The effectiveness is likely to be directly proportional to the popularity of the Blog and the subject matter of the survey. Starting a new Blog to publicise a survey may not prove effective, but using one that has already establish an audience is likely to generate a good response.
The traditional forms of promotion should not be overlooked and mail shots using letters to introduce and invite participants can be very effective for certain types of surveys.
Posters can be used to grab the attention and invite interested parties to participate in a poster. Prominently displayed in areas frequented by the target audience they can often have a instant visual impact and give the opportunity to follow up the visual image with well a crafted headline.
A good example would be for a survey that is attempting to research a psychological condition where potential participants who have experienced certain events in their lives will not be on any lists and across all social and age groups. A poster could be displayed in public places such as transport hubs, hospitals and entertainment venues.
Electronic or physical notice boards can prove to be an effective method of survey promotion. Notice boards can be of a general or specific nature and as such can be used to targeted groups of people
Approaching a company directly can enable you to tap into a ready source of suitable respondents. To avoid spamming a company it is recommended that permission should be sought from the specific company's senior management, human resources or customer relations department.
Sporting events, festivals or trade shows can provide market researchers with a concentration of like minded people. However, you should not expect people who are attending such events will be in the mood or position to respond to surveys. An effective way to tap into this source of respondents is to hand out business style cards with a short explanation as to the objective of the survey and with a link to the online survey.
The size of the card is important as it can be put in a pocket easily so that when each potential respondent returns home they will take time to participate in the survey.
If access is available to any form of radio, air, digital or online, an announcement promoting a survey can generate a good response proportional to the number of listeners.
There are many radio channels to choose ranging from national, regional, local and specialist channels that generate audiences that can be categorised by age and interest.
As with formal events there is an opportunity to target the general public as they go about their normal business. Although individuals can be canvassed and asked to complete surveys there and then handing out business card style notices requesting them to participate in a survey later could prove more productive.
On Product Packaging
Products can carry a label with a link back to an online survey. This would be an ideal way of gathering feedback on a particular product or it could be used just as a vehicle for promoting a survey that is unrelated to the product.
On invoices and corporate publications
General correspondence that confirms an action such as an invoice or delivery note can be used to promote a survey and thereby gather valuable customer relations feedback.
The need to give incentives to people for them to participate in surveys will very much depend on the subject and length of the survey. For a short survey you may not need to offer any incentive but as a general rule the longer and harder the survey the more incentive is required.
Incentives can be in the form of a payment, vouchers, free gifts or entry into a prize draw. For some surveys such incentives might be inappropriate as in the case of an internal employee survey; for these types of surveys some incentive may be required to ensure a good and timely response and they could take the form of an explanation explaining the benefits of participating in a survey such as it leading to improvements in the working environment.