We recently concluded a very successful online survey of our members on our social network for people interested in finance and investing, and would like to share with other Ning creators why we did it, how we went about doing it, and what we learnt about our network.
Let's start off by explaining why we did it. We did it for the simple reason of wanting to get to our members better, and find ways to grow our network by understanding how to serve them better. While we were getting lots of qualitative feedback through constantly interacting with members who were active on the network on a one-to-one basis, we also wanted to reach out to the sizeable population of registered members and non-registered visitors who are less active in discussion forums and networking, but were still visiting our network regularly just to browse content.
How we went about doing it? We set up our survey using a 3rd party survey software provider. We used Survey Monkey as it met our needs best, but there are tons of other providers out there such as Survey Gizmo and Poll Daddy, to name a few, each offering their own online survey tools that you may find better and / or more suited to your situation.
We then set out an invitation to our members in our weekly newsletter (followed by a reminder email a couple of days later), but what really helped us drive responses was the incentive of a free ebook download, as well as a chance to win a small cash prize.
When we were done collating and analyzing the final results of the survey after we closed it, we also made a choice to publish the results to our members and the general public, as we felt that that was another way to communicate with our members and not ring-fence what was essentially our member's contribution and work.
Besides, as the survey results were generally positive, we also felt that publishing our results helped us in our marketing - it reinforced the credibility of our network as a place for like minded people to come to for authentic, unbiased and quality finance and investing content and interaction.
So what did we learn about our network and its members? A lot of the discussion posts on our forum were started by college students studying finance, which led us to initially believe that we should prioritize our attention and extend our out-reach programs further with the student audience. However our intuition and common sense always told us that there were probably lots more employed professionals than students out there who were interested in the finance and investing content we had to offer on our network.
Sure enough, we found from our survey that over 80% of our members were in full-time employment, and virtually all of them have a bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree. As a matter of fact, graduate or professional degree holders represent two thirds of the respondents. This finding dispeled notions that our network was only for students, and in fact reached out to a much broader professional audience.
Why was this happening? While younger students are the most active in the forum and are certainly the most visible part of our audience, it is clear that the significant bunch of older employed professionals out there were simply sitting back and silently observing all that was going on on our network. Taken in context with the qualitative feedback we’ve received, we guessed that it’s not a matter of all take and no give, but perhaps more a matter of familiarity with social media and the perennial issue of the time that our members could allocate from their busy lives to active social media participation on our niche network.
So that wraps up our post about how we conducted a successful online survey on our Ning network, and if you have comments or feedback to share, please leave a comment and I'll try to respond as soon as I can.