Polls and Surveys

by janbking on April 13, 2011

Take a look at this poll that just came out today and hit many of the national news media with this headline, “Nirvana fans more likely to have sex on the first date.” This news is the result of a poll done by an online dating website – an ingenious marketing idea we can borrow when we look at book marketing. Read more here.

Creating a credible poll or survey related to the topic of your expertise and/or book is creating news and if it is at all provocative it could land you some major media.

Doing a survey is time-consuming but worthwhile. You probably want to have at least several hundred responses for it to be a valid and reliable poll. But the pursuit of respondents actually gives you the opportunity to connect with relevant associations, bloggers and others in a way that does not seem self-serving.

A few years ago I was involved in a survey of women becoming authors. We compiled a list of women’s organizations and writing organizations and asked their help in spreading the word that we were doing an important survey, the results of which we would share with them so they could share them with their readership.

We also offered prizes for those who completed the survey – your book would serve this purpose well, but we had Amazon gift certificates, book bags, writing books and other related items to attract the right crowd.

We conducted the survey for about six weeks to allow plenty of time for the organizations to let their members know via monthly newsletter or blog or however they regularly communicated.

We also had relatively few questions, but then ended with an open-ended question that would allow participants to say more if there was something we hadn’t asked that was relevant to them.

In the case of the online dating service survey, they would only have needed to ask two questions: What musical artist is your favorite and would you have sex on the first date. Not a perfect correlation, of course, but good enough for an online dating service!

The important component is the correlation of those two questions that made for a very interesting graphic. Often a survey will find interesting results that vary by gender or age or economic status. Sometimes you have an idea about what results to expect and other times it is a complete surprise, so you have to stay open to asking good questions and doing a thorough analysis of the answers.

The dating service may have asked a lot of questions, but they only sent out a press release on two and their correlation. It is much more effective to find the most interesting results and blog or do a press release on that limited data rather than trying to give all the results.

Listen for the questions people ask when you talk about your book, the kind that start with, “I wonder…” You can certainly explore subjects that were not covered in your book, but that are related in a way that will draw attention to your expertise.

There are techniques used by research institutions and others who regularly do surveys to make sure the questions aren’t leading the respondents in any particular direction, invalidating the survey.

I urge you to keep an eye out for what topic might make an interesting survey. Sending a press release out about your new book is unlikely to get any interest. But if you create news through a poll or survey, you can mention your book and talk about your expertise as an author.

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