Although social networks make it easy to be in the know, a premium remains on doing market surveys.
While some projects demand long, expensive research, often just taking a quick pulse of the market is enough to tell if an idea is a good one.
For example, earlier this month Facebook launched a polling feature that lets users post a question and up to five responses on its site. The polls can be targeted to users based on gender, age, location, or profile keyword, but are limited to using just one of those criteria.
"I would imagine this would be an effective way for an agency to get some low-cost research done that would be really effective in a new-business pitch," says Brandee Barker, director of corporate communications at Facebook.
Annie Longsworth, MD of Cohn & Wolfe's San Francisco office, ran a Facebook poll last week that asked users between the ages of 35 and 49 how often they clean their kitchen floor. She asked for 100 replies in 30 minutes and got a 100% response rate, she says.
"To be able to get a response that is statistically correct that quickly was really valuable," she notes. "When we're pondering different directions to go on new business, I can see using it to help shape the pitch," as well as to research strategies and campaigns.
John Berard, MD of Zeno Group's San Francisco office, expects to use the polls for brainstorming. "Because it's easy and cost-efficient, I can see using it to test ideas that we might have before we even float them to a client," Berard says. The responses offer proof that ideas have been pretested in the market, he adds.
This is the feature's first iteration, and Barker says enhancements will be made based on user feedback. And some are already offering ways to make the polls better.
"You can't refine demographic targeting, deliver multi-part questionnaires, ask open-ended questions, conduct cluster analyses, or verify response data statistical significance," points out Kirsten Osolind, Re:invention CEO, via e-mail. "Still, Facebook polls have the potential to be a powerful reputation-building tool."
Facebook polls are accessible to anyone who has a profile
You can watch polls live to know how much traffic they are generating
Facebook polls are a cheap and quick way to do market research, especially for the under-40 market