How not to survey social media, and how to recover

You want to run a survey on social media – so you ask give StopPress a chance to ask their readers for questions.

Unfortunately the commentators have a different take on your great idea – and accuse you of firstly not being social media experts and secondly of being lazy. It doesn’t help that you don’t even have a form or forum on your own site for people to use, and not did you even bother to write a blog post on your own site to gather responses. It really doesn’t help that have blog posts titled “In social media just like in PR, there’s no such thing as bad publicity” (there is) and “Social media marketing is not easy?!?!.”

It’s a bad situation made worse by the comments that appear in the StopPress article. Many of the people commenting really know what they are talking about, and as yet there has been no response from the Fast Forward agency who are doing the survey. Let’s have a quick look at some of the fall out and then ask – how could this be done better?

First the very amusing Batman used wonder-tonic to change the website to look like this. It was my first impression of FastForward:

Then some other commentators asked some questions – like Gerry Kookmeyer:

“Stoppress is an obvious vehicle to elicit response to marketing related surveys but I can’t believe a company that claims to be an expert in social media is actually asking us to come up with the questions. Is this a case of stupidity or laziness?”

and Dave didn’t like self-professed experts

“Unless you can show us REAL case studies of your own work – please don’t call yourselves experts.

We’ve all had enough of the direct marketers, copywriters, media planners and journos who setup a Twitter and become a ‘guru’.”

and Courtney Lambert (@cjlambert)

“I would also like readers to turn up to my work, do my job for me, and I get paid. In the spirit of sharing, I’ll tell you how I spent the money. Top five people ‘doing my job for me” get to do my job for me!”

There is plenty more – read the comments yourself.

I checked out the real Fast Forward site as well. The site was very basic and included a few charts – like this one, which has a catchy name:

The page on Social Media tools was out of date – with Bebo rating a mention, Twitter (100m users, 70k applications, over 1 billion tweets/month) getting short thrift and the largely irrelevant Second Life (maximum ever online 38,000, members 18m) gets good airplay.  It’s hard to stay on top of social media as it moves so fast, but if you are going public to the community then you do need to make sure you are pitch perfect.

How to do it better

Fast Forward should have done three things – and still can:

1: Get out there and engage with the comment, twitter and blog streams. Try to turn the conversation around and let people understand that this is a genuine opportunity that can benefit them, that you are seeking help from experts and that you are not professing to know it all as they portray. Help them understand that they can take advantage of the free survey and get their questions in.

2: Create a comprehensive blog post on the Fast Forward blog site, and explain the survey goals, the sampling method, the target groups who will be surveyed, the questions that are currently in the instrument and how the results will be presented. Ask for feedback on the existing question set and the whole approach, and change it continuously in response. Post comments over at StopPress and other forums referring to the post.

3: Update and upgrade the Fast Forward site, firstly systematically and quickly bringing the content up to date. Fix the basic usability stuff – like linking to the main site from the blog – or just replace the entire site with a blog in the meantime, using pages for the main site (that’s all it is) and so forth. Get a designer to help you update the look and feel, or at least use a standard WordPress template, like Vigilance which you used for your blog. Progressively add functionality that will let you engage your clients and the community in a conversation, and above all keep the site up to date.

Published by Lance Wiggs


8 replies on “How not to survey social media, and how to recover”

  1. Good post Lance but I’m disappointed you didn’t highlight the spelling mistakes on the UGEST chart itself ;-)


  2. Intresting thread – unfortunately for Fast Forward it wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t even read the conversation.


  3. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think what really triggered this response was the fact that we called ourselves ‘experts’ which in this industry is a huge NO-NO. We should’ve known better not to do that so big slap on the hand for that. What I do not understand is that the lights were on ffwd instead of on the huge opportunity for everyone to benefit from the insights of this survey. We did not ask for anyone to do this survey on our behalf and I have no idea what could’ve prompted Gary to think that. We’re just asking you to raise your hand now if there are some topics in particular that you’d like included in the survey. At the end of the day, so much energy was spent on minute details while we’re yet to hear a response on the real subject at hand, the social media survey


  4. Great post Lance. I am more than happy to support people, ideas and projects that show a genuine curiosity and willingness to add value to businesses and organisations. When I see blatant bandwagoning and ‘get rich quick’ rubbish I want to see it gone. It’s hard enough to earn trust from clients and move new media discussions out of 12-year old Bebo gimmick land (and cowboy hats don’t look good on me).


  5. Hi Lance,

    I posted this on the original and since it’s spread to here I thought others might want some clarity also, with your permission.

    Hi guys,
    Please allow me to clear up a couple of things.

    1, yes the site is a temporary expedient to assist in kicking off this survey and it will become prettier. Promise.

    2, We recently conducted a focus group with some fairly high level Auckland marketing execs and CEOs on commercial SMM usage and the number one concern was that no one, not even their advertising and PR people, has got a particularly good grip on SMM.

    So we have decided to conduct what will be probably the most comprehensive survey ever run in NZ to date.

    It will invite primarily marketing people to comment on such things as how they use SMM, ROI stuff, knowledge gaps and lots more, both quant and qualitative.

    The payback for the respondents will be a free industry comparative report, which would cost them big bucks if they were to commission it themselves, that they can use to understand what others in their classification are doing and give them a starting point and some guidance.

    The heavy stuff will be available, for a small fee, to industry professionals who need an in depth understanding of commercial SMM usage.

    This is not “survey monkey” stuff. The back end is a very grunty diagnostic platform and the outputs from this survey will be considerably more useful than anything we’ve seen from these types of surveys in NZ so far.

    The point of this request was not to have the survey written for us, we’ve done that, but to invite people to submit a question that they might like included. If it’s an inspired, forward thinking question we might just put it in. And yes, if we use your question you can have a complete report, for free.

    That’s it, the whole point of this request. Hope that helps.


  6. Hi Courtney,

    Unfortunately it’s not “get rich quick” stuff, I wish. However, it is a commercial exercise. You charge clients I’m sure.

    Regarding your comment “It’s hard enough to earn trust from clients” I suggest you do what I do in my training consultancy:

    1. Promise the prospective client the results they want. Not smoke but quantifiable results on their bottom line. I mean real money, real ROI.

    2. Promise the prospective client that if they don’t achieve that real money return working with you, that you will not bill them. And mean it.

    If you do this several things will happen for you: You actually will gain their trust, you can bill them more (trust me they don’t mind when they see you’ve got skin in it) and you wont have to struggle to find new ones.

    If you want to know more about formulating this approach I “ dum dee doo” coffee and I don’t wear cowboy hats. And I’m not Nigerian either. At least not this lifetime.


  7. Marco said…
    The back end is a very grunty diagnostic platform and the outputs from this survey will be considerably more useful than anything we’ve seen from these types of surveys in NZ so far

    If the survey data is not analyzed using any type of Factor Analysis (FA) algorithm, then there is some serious questions about the robustness of the survey outputs. There are a number of variants of FA available today (i.e., the standard ones and also advanced ones that are quite new, i.e., only available recently in academic literature). FA techniques are popular with marketers for data analysis.

    I am not a marketing guru but I know this, since it is a specialized area of mine. I developed a factor analysis type engine called MLR (Multiple Linear Regression) for JRA (in Ponsonby) a couple of years ago, in which they specialize in workplace survey. The MLR variant that I wrote has exactly the same input/output as that same algorithm that is available in SPSS desktop statistical tool (now, an IBM company). It had to be the same, since JRA had been using SPSS tool to analyze their survey results offline (i.e., desktop). JRA wanted to do the analysis live online rather than offline desktop analysis, but the software house (outsourced to) that was contracted to do the development didn’t have the expertise in that area and that’s how I got involved.

    The engine is being used online, where users (from a specific company) can complete or fill in questionnaire form, and when all is completed, the manager (or whoever the assigned management person in that company) can just press a button (on the browser), and then pops the survey analysis (almost instantly). If Fast Forward‘s team (as I can see that you’re involved in the discussion) lacks knowledge in analytics & how it would be useful in their line of work, then please indicate back here, so I can point you out to more info on the topic and open source software to use.


  8. The questionnaire forms were designed by JRA’s 3 industrial psychologists, but not by me. I only wrote the analytic engine for them. Their industrial psychologists, one has a PhD and the other 2 have got MAs, so they’re very good in questionnaire design, where some of those can be customized to suit a specific organization.


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