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How to Create a Useful Social Media Survey
By: Christine Geraci
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Many organizations using social media out there got into the game with a common, but very passive strategy: They followed the herd. Meaning, someone thought to themselves, "Hmmmm...Facebook is the biggest social network, which means the biggest potential audience for us is on Facebook, which means we should have a Facebook page." Or, "Hmmm...everyone else in our industry is on Facebook and Twitter, so we should be too."

I've learned this is a halfway decent strategy for beginners who need to get a feel for how social media works. But at some point, some higher-up is going to want to know why you're devoting time and manpower to the effort. And "because everyone else is doing it" isn't going to be an acceptable answer for that person.
Organizations that want a focused, meaty, and useful social presence must start by gathering data about the people they're trying to reach: their supporters. And one good way to do that is through a social media survey. Here's how to get started:
Step 1: Define your goal. Before you get into how, you have to address WHY you want to conduct a social media survey. Also, it's important to be up front with survey participants about why you're asking them to help you gather data. In my opinion, some really good reasons to conduct a social media survey include: 
  • Determining if your organization is present on the right social channels.
  • Identifying new networks where your organization can communicate with current and potential customers/supporters.
  • Streamlining the amount of time and manpower devoted to managing the organization's online presence (and this doesn't necessarily mean CUTTING people. You may discover you need to devote MORE time to cultivating a fruitful online presence).
  • Identifying any gap (or lack thereof) in social media effectiveness. For example, you may have social presences your audience isn't connecting with, yet you discover the majority of your audience is indeed using social media. This means what you're doing isn't effective.
  • All of the above. You could get all of this information from one good survey. 
Step 2: Target your audience. I can't even begin to explain how crucial this is. I maintain that a random survey presented to the masses WILL NOT WORK. You don't want to know more about random people. You want to know more about YOUR people: current customers, supporters, and stakeholders. 
Step 3: Develop your survey questions based on your goal(s). Start with broad, general questions, then work your way down to specifics. A sampling of what you could ask (in a basic order from general to specific):
  • Person's birthdate (A best practice as determined by Tom Webster for SocialFresh). This is better than asking participants to assign themselves an age category.
  • Whether or not they actually use social media
  • Which social networks they use
  • Why do they use social media? To stay connected with friends? Get news? Obtain special offers? A combo of a bunch of different things?
  • How they access social media (via the web at a computer, or via mobile device)
  • How often they use social media, and at what times
  • If they've heard of you via [insert social channel here]
  • Are they currently connected with you via social media? If not, why? Not posting consistently? Never see your stuff? Not interested in the content?
Step 4: Provide an incentive. People rarely complete surveys out of the goodness of their hearts, even if they're extremely loyal to you and the survey is short. Surveys are a pain in the you-know-what. So if you can, provide some sort of reward for participation, whether it's a coupon, a tangible prize, or entry into a raffle to win something cool.
Step 5: Get the word out. If you have any subscription-based product, such as an e-newsletter or email notification system, a print mailing, etc., start there. These are captive audiences who voluntarily want to hear from you, and I'd say they're most likely to give you the best data. If your organization holds events, take the opportunity to survey participants, if appropriate. And go ahead and provide the survey on your website and current social channels.
Step 6: Be accountable. Report the results of your survey with all the methods you used to gather the data in the first place (see Step 5). Then detail your next steps. For instance, you may have discovered that much of your audience uses Pinterest. If it makes sense for you, then you can tell them you're looking into how your organization can be of service to them via this social network. 
Step 7: Give people a chance to offer feedback any time. Make sure people know you value their input and provide a mechanism through which they can provide their opinions about your social presence, such as sending an email to a specific address, leaving a comment on Facebook, etc. 
What else would you include in a social media survey?

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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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