Let me ask you a question: art of the survey

Look at me. I create great content. Read my stuff. Eh. 

When was the last time you asked your audience a question– a real, genuine question?

We always talk about online engagement, comments, email open rates, click-through, time on page, bounce rate, etc. in the context of content marketing. If we just create better stuff, the audience will come. But we don’t ever talk about the other side of engagement– we never talk about asking great questions to our readers. And IMHO, asking (great) questions is one of the best ways to learn about your audience, discover what’s broken AND… drive engagement.

So let’s talk about it. 

Yesterday I was kicking around on G+ and I stumbled upon a brand new feature on the platform: Google+ Polls. h/t Mark Traphagen. And boy, is it cool!

Will you start using the G+ polling tool?

Will you start using the G+ polling tool?


Google+ Polls is very slick and easy to use tool for conducting simple, single question polls via Google’s social platform. Apparently, too, it’s a byproduct of the Google acqui-hire of Polar, a well designed, mobile-focused, polling tool. Polar was only acquired a month ago, so clearly they are wasting no time in transferring the Polar DNA over to G+. Bravo!

What strikes me as so compelling about Google+ Polls are a couple of things:

First, since you have to be signed into G+ to respond to a poll, this becomes a very easy way to collect user specific polling data without asking for it. As great as it is to ask a question that solicits a response, if you don’t know who is answering the question, you’re dramatically reducing what can be extrapolated from the results.

Second, I think this will be a tremendous tool for bloggers who want to embed polls directly into articles [As of today (10/12/14), you can’t embed these polls into wordpress, but I suspect that will be updated very shortly]. The reason being that there isn’t yet (to my knowledge) a great polling plugin or widget for WordPress that is easy to use, easy to install, mobile friendly, and which is powered by a platform that can easily pass user data (in lieu of requiring a login). Anonymous polls are fine, but user specific polls are magic. And that’s what G+ is giving us.

Why polling inside of blogs matters

I’ve been a big fan of SurveyMonkey, and use some pretty basic polling strategies at LawInsider.com to solicit user feedback.

User poll from LawInsider.com

This user poll from LawInsider.com pops-up after the first 60-seconds of onsite searching.

But I’ve never made polling a meaningful strategy on my blog or via social media, which I think is a huge miss. At least in part, I think I’ve missed it as the result of not having a slick tool like Google+ Polls to easily pose questions. I’ve loved polls for years, but never had the right tool to incorporate into blogging and social.

In any event, Google today has me thinking hard about cool ways to incorporate polling into my blogging and social engagement strategy– and I wanted to address the larger question of why/how I believe it will have a meaningful impact on my engagement in the future.

To that end, let’s take a quick look at a couple of very successful examples of how questions can drive readership and engagement.

The art of the survey 

Quora and ThinkHR

In simple terms, a survey is just a question posed to your audience that also (ideally) shows the results back to your audience. Two great examples that highlight the power of good questions can be found via Quora and ThinkhR– both very different, and both very effective.

Quora is a tremendous social media platform that’s driven almost entirely by user generated questions and answers. The reason that the question is so powerful, IMHO, is that by its very nature it is asking for reader engagement. There’s no content without first a good question. And while Quora is an amazing source of information from experts all around the world, what prompts these incredible insights is often a very simple question. Examples of Quora questions/answers here and here.

In the case of ThinkHR (where I work), our HR hotline team answers thousands of live HR questions every week and some of the questions (and answers) are reposted to the blog on a weekly basis. Nearly 50% of all blog traffic is driven by these question and answer results– and although the ThinkHR blog doesn’t currently run any polls on its blog, the content itself is entirely driven by user generated questions. In essence, ThinkHR itself is founded on generating questions and answers through our users.

The end result in both the case of Quora and ThinkHR, is a highly activated reader base and a highly relevant content marketing strategy. The reader base is activated because they help fuel the content (via questions), and the content is highly relevant because it’s the direct result of reader feedback.

In conclusion

I know we strive to become “thought leaders” in our respective fields, and to build a following around our insight and wisdom. But sometimes asking good questions, and facilitating Q&A, is the biggest value you can give to your audience– because it lets them engage with you. I know we have good things to say, but so too do our readers.

Let them share!


About Preston Clark

Preston Clark has been writing about legal tech since 2010. He's currently the CRO for a leading legal tech SaaS company in the San Francisco Bay Area. Preston was formerly in-house counsel for the University of Miami and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Central America. In his free time, Preston enjoys building world-class sales teams, reading about SaaS, playing pick-up basketball and planning adventures with his son.