We’ve all experienced the fun of voting in polls on election days, but did you know that they’ve also become hugely popular on social networks? Today we’re looking at the world of social media polls, explaining how to create them, and how you can use them to benefit your business.
What’s a poll?
A poll is a fun way to ask a question for which followers have to choose from set replies, with a minimum of two responses for people to select their answer from. Followers simply have to tap their answer and then they’ll see how the voting has progressed so far. An example of a poll question might be:
Q: Jaffa cakes – which are they?
Polls are a quick way to gauge opinion instantly, and they can have numerous different uses, as we’ll see with some examples shortly. They’re useful because they force voters to choose from set options rather than coming up with their own ideas (thus alleviating the risk of ‘Boaty McBoatface’-style debacles), though you can, of course, have ‘other’ as an option if you’d like to encourage suggestions from your followers.
The business benefits of polls
Polls are great because they allow people to respond with minimal effort, making engagement more likely. It takes a split second to answer a poll, because the choices are already there – a bit like a multiple choice exam question versus an essay question.
This makes polls attractive when users are quickly scrolling down a news feed in an idle moment; by comparison, it takes substantially longer to compose a reply by typing it from scratch. Polls also stand out visually in news feeds, particularly on Twitter, making it more likely they’ll be noticed and responded to.
What’s more, the fact that with some polls the results are shown after voting encourages people to engage, as those who are curious to know the results will have to vote to see them. They’re probably also intrigued to see whether their answer is the more popular choice.
All this adds up to increased engagement, which means the potential to get your brand in front of a wider audience. That’s a great benefit in itself, as it increases your exposure and has the potential to grow your customer base. It’s also handy because it means you can use polls to gain valuable feedback and market research for your business. For example, you can use them to:
- Get feedback on existing products or services – which is not only useful for your product or service development, but asking your followers to influence your decisions shows you care about their views
- Conduct market research by getting your followers to vote on new product or service ideas, or tell you about what features or benefits are most important to them
- Ask for preferences, such as preferred mode of communication, to see which method is most favoured by your audience and therefore most worth investing more time in
Importantly, you can also have some fun with polls, and being creative with them can get your brand in front of a much bigger audience. It could be a simple idea like a snail race or a multi-tweet affair along the lines of Richard Osman’s World Cup of Biscuits, which saw eight groups of biscuits in several rounds of voting elimination for Red Nose Day.
A particularly memorable example over the harsh winter just gone was Doncaster Council’s series of polls to name their new gritter lorries – see the full entertaining thread here.
Towards the end of the voting rounds each poll was receiving around 20,000 votes, with the tweet announcing the winners getting 4,600 retweets and 11,000 likes.
Not only did these fun polls get Doncaster Council’s Twitter account seen by tens of thousands more people than would normally have seen it, but the initiative garnered lots of press attention, with the likes of The Guardian, Sky News and the BBC among the many news outlets that ran the story. A resounding success.
How to add a poll to your social media post
It couldn’t be easier to start embracing the power of polls to boost the social media presence of your business. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Stories are among the top social media platforms that allow you to add a poll to quiz your followers, so that’s what we’ll look at here.
On Facebook, you’ll find the option to add a poll when you start composing a new post. You’ll see a button with three dots, and you can then select “poll”.
You can have two options, and each option can be no more than 25 characters. You can also illustrate each one with a photo or gif by clicking the relevant icon if you wish. You can set the response time period, choosing from a day, a week, never (no expiry date) and a custom date. It’s important to note that voting isn’t anonymous in a Facebook poll – people’s answers are visible to the poll creator and to other voters – so that may put some followers off voting.
On Twitter, you’ll see the poll icon when you go to compose a tweet.
Clicking on it gives you a minimum of two and a maximum of four response choices, so they’re more versatile than Facebook polls (though you can’t add images or gifs to them). Each choice can be up to 25 characters in length.
Twitter polls can run for up to seven days, and you can set the exact number of days, hours and minutes you want the poll to run for within this timeframe. You won’t be able to vote in your own poll, but you’ll be able to keep track of the voting by checking back on the tweet. Unlike Facebook polls, voting for those on Twitter is anonymous, so if you have a question to ask for which users may not want to respond publicly, Twitter might be a better place to ask it.
To add a poll on Instagram, go to Stories, choose a photo (or type mode) and then click on the sticker button at the top. Select ‘poll’ and you’ll get a very simple poll allowing you to type the question and two response choices of up to 26 characters each. Drag and drop the poll to place it where you want it on the image, and pinch to resize it.
These polls and their results last as long as the story does – 24 hours – and you can view the results in the same place you look to see who’s viewed your story. Like Facebook, voting isn’t anonymous, so you’ll be able to see who’s voted for what (but unlike Facebook, voters won’t see each other’s votes).
A few final tips for using polls effectively
To boost the number of people who respond and get maximum benefit from your social media polls, here are a few more things to consider.
- Ask for retweets or shares – “vote then RT!” – to encourage followers to spread the word about your poll
- Create polls around trending topics, as you’ll be able to capitalise on existing interest in the subject matter
- Bear in mind that if you’re asking a more sensitive question, Twitter is a better platform because the votes are anonymous. Public voting may put some people off responding.
Finally, you could get even more mileage from a poll or series of polls by collating the results into a blog post or even an infographic. For instance, if you were a garden centre, you could run a series of polls on the nation’s favourite plant, with different rounds for each category (flowers, shrubs, trees, etc), then pitting the winners of each against each other to come up with an overall winner. This would make great blog content, and the results could be displayed visually in an infographic illustrated with drawings of the different kinds of plants featured.
If you’d like to get even more handy tips on how to get the most out of social media to help grow your business, have a browse of our previous posts on social media for small businesses.