How to Use an Online Survey to Learn About Your Audience


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No matter what industry your organization is in, understanding your target audience should be one of your top priorities. This understanding is what drives the type of content you produce for your ads, website, and social media. No one wants to sift through countless blog posts or web pages that are irrelevant or generic. One of the simplest ways you can ensure this doesn’t happen is by surveying your audience.

Surveys can help take the guesswork out of marketing to your target audience by providing real-world insight into their wants and needs. Creating the content for your online surveys might be challenging, but when done effectively, it is a great way to gather data that your team can use to make good business decisions and plan content strategies. 

The benefits of using an online survey

Online surveys, especially when compared to paper-based surveys, have several advantages for organizations. If you’re hesitant to start surveying your audience, here are the main benefits you’ll want to consider:

  • Gather data fast and efficiently
  • Greater accuracy of responses
  • Better experience for participants
  • Reduced workload for staff
  • Streamline data analysis
  • Strategic, data-backed decisions

Real-world example: University of Michigan

Several University of Michigan departments across three campuses use FormAssembly to replace paper-based forms with online surveys. Their new-and-improved online surveys automatically send data directly to Salesforce to optimize data collection workflows. By modernizing their survey processes, the university enhanced the user experience for faculty members while improving processing time and reporting for staff.

What questions should you ask in an online survey?

If you want your online survey to be effective and give you valuable feedback, you’ll want to be strategic about the questions you ask. Generic questions will result in generic answers — and wasted time for both your team and your audience.

Survey questions have several varieties to consider as well, including open-ended questions, multiple choice questions, and point scale questions. The type of online survey you create may use multiple question formats or stick to one. 

For example, a customer satisfaction survey may only need questions that can be answered on a scale from one to five. A product testing survey may include open-ended questions so individuals can share more in-depth answers about their experience. An employee performance review might include several question types.

Before sending out an online survey, be sure you understand your goal and build strategic questions around it. A clear objective for your survey will ensure you are getting the data you need to make better decisions in the future.

Tips for creating an effective online survey

A well-designed online survey that asks the right questions can positively impact submission rates as well as the quality of data you collect. Here are a few ways you can create an effective online survey.

1. Define the goal of the survey.

Is your survey asking for feedback after a new user completes a free trial? Or asking current customers about their satisfaction level with your product? Knowing why you want to create a survey in the first place will help guide what questions to ask and what type of information you want to collect.

2. Collect only relevant information.

Your online survey should ask only the amount and type of questions needed to fulfill the intended purpose of the survey. If you are collecting satisfaction scores from customers, for example, you should not need to collect their contact details. This is customer data that should already be in your database. 

Practicing data minimization by only asking relevant questions is a good data stewardship practice. Learn more by watching the webinar, 5 Steps to Implement Data Stewardship at Your Organization.

3. Avoid biased or leading questions.

Even if unintentional, certain phrases or words can bring bias into your survey questions. Bias can also be found in leading questions, or questions that point respondents toward one answer over another. Regardless of how you wish respondents to answer, it is important to keep questions as neutral as possible. Too much bias and respondents may reconsider giving their honest opinion or worse, never complete the survey.

4. Consider incentives for submissions.

Sometimes, the only way to ensure submissions for an online survey is by providing a reward. Gift cards, discounts, or sweepstakes might be the extra incentive a user needs to follow through with completing and submitting their answers on your survey. There is always a chance incentives will attract the wrong type of respondents, however. Make sure the people you are targeting a select group of people that fit the goal of your survey and offer incentives they would find valuable.

5. Reassure that data is secure.

No matter what type of online survey, respondents want to know that the information they are giving you stays secure and private. Being transparent, another key tenet of data stewardship, is an easy way to keep respondents informed about how your organization plans to use the data they collect. This goes hand-in-hand with fairness, or allowing respondents to give informed consent to share their information with you.

Start building smarter online surveys

Learning more about your target audience starts with having a tool that allows you to create beautiful, functional online surveys. FormAssembly simplifies survey building with a secure, easy-to-use platform you can have up and running in minutes. See how FormAssembly works by starting a 14-day free trial today.

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