NEWS28 October 2011

SurveyMonkey adds Audience panel to DIY survey offer

North America

US— SurveyMonkey has built its own panel. The DIY survey software supplier has been recruiting from its pool of survey takers for several months and now has 350,000 US panellists signed up.

The panel size works out at just 1% of the 35m unique respondents who complete a SurveyMonkey survey each month. Panellists are recruited at the end of a SurveyMonkey survey, rather than through banner ads or other means typical of online panels. “It doesn’t cost us anything to recruit them,” says CEO Dave Goldberg (pictured).

Panellists are incentivised to take surveys with a 50 cent donation to a charity of their choice and entry into a $100 sweepstakes – but panellists qualify for the incentive regardless of whether they screen out or are over quota. Provided they answer all the questions they are asked, they get the incentive, says Goldberg. And the firm charges per finish too – not just for each completed survey.

This was an idea advanced earlier this month in a blog post by uSamp CEO Matt Dusig, whose company has been working with SurveyMonkey dealing with overflow panel customers. Dusig suggested a new pricing model – one more favourable to panels and panellists – could be a way of addressing the quality issues that plague online sample provision, and Goldberg agrees.

“Changing the way we charge will have an impact on quality, but there is more to it than that,” Goldberg said. The charitable incentive can help discourage survey takers only interested in earning cash for themselves. Keeping surveys short can also minimise drop-out rates and reduce satisficing behaviour brought on by boredom – SurveyMonkey says 15 minutes is the longest any survey sent to its panellists should run.

Limiting survey invite frequency to one a week per panellist is another approach SurveyMonkey is taking, but that requires transparency and honesty on the part of the supplier about the panellists they have available and to charge appropriately for low-incidence samples – as well as careful scaling of the panel in line with demand.

Goldberg said the company is not going to be marketing the SurveyMonkey Audience panel to the market research community in the same way other panels do. For starters, the firm requires that the SurveyMonkey survey software be used for all panel projects – which may sit uneasy with agencies that prefer their own or other licenced tools.

But also, Goldberg reckons that its prime customer base will be people or organisations who don’t typically buy panel services – just as its survey software made its name among people not used to buying-in professional survey services.

“The panel companies are just not really set up to serve a lot of our customers. They may want 300 responses delivered in a few hours and that’s not really do-able for many of today’s panel companies.”