As of Q3 2015 Statista reports 307m monthly active users of Twitter worldwide. That’s a huge pool of potential information givers. Twitter has recently launched Twitter Polls that enable you to tap into this vast reservoir. At Clicked we were keen to investigate what this might mean for researchers and how we might be able to make good use of them.
Twitter makes it easy
First of all they are really easy to use. Compose a new tweet and at the bottom is the option to create a “Poll”. When we started experimenting with the polling feature there were just two response options, but Twitter soon increased that to a possible four responses.
Create your question and up to four possible responses within a 116 character limit, Tweet the poll, and watch the response. It is literally that easy to set up! The Poll stays open for 24 hours. The voters remain anonymous and only once they have voted do they see how the results look.
You can either run the poll for free to your own followers and those to whom they re-tweet (organic), or pay for the poll to be promoted. When promoted, the Poll will go out to anyone – Twitter will promote the tweet in user’s timeline in a random way. This broadens the reach making it both more representative than your followers and means that you’ll end up with more responses.
Clicked has a modest 314 followers and so we found it necessary to promote all of our polls in a random way. The more you spend, the more responses are gathered. We spent the same amount to promote each poll and gathered between 97 and 184 votes. It’s worthwhile noting that using the advanced features, Twitter provides the opportunity to target users based on geodemographics, device usage, interests and behaviours in a fairly sophisticated way – almost approaching the sophistication of a panel.
To generate a rounded view of twitter polls, we created five polls on the following subjects:
  • The perceived novelty factor of Smartwatches
  • Banning Russia from the Olympics
  • Over the top video consumption
  • Data privacy
  • Black Friday spending
You can view the results on our twitter feed. I’ll summarise some of the strengths and what to be wary of.
What are the limitations?
Here are 8 things you need to keep in mind when designing your own polls.
  1. Sample size – we found that around 10% of votes will be organic – from your followers or from re-tweets. This means accounts with a large following may not need to promote tweets. A recent post asking whether people thought WW3 was about to start received over 3,000 responses from a following of around 35,000. This level of about 10% responding is common at the moment but it could still be a function of the novelty of Twitter polls. We expect this to decline over time.
  2. Keep to topics on which people are going to have a view or care. We noted a poll about the appeal of Justin Bieber v One Direction from a heavily followed account that received just 19 votes. It suggests that many couldn’t care less and may vote cynically.
  3. Respondent profile – there are limitations as to how you can analyse the data. Whilst you can target users in a fairly sophisticated way, it’s not possible profile users by how they vote – Twitter can only offer analysis of engagements.
  4. Consider the timing of the poll. Most responses are achieved in the first few hours after launch – typically the first four hours. The peak time for response we found to be 8-9 pm. With late afternoon launches, we find that 40-50% of the responses are achieved in this critical hour. When we launch at noon the overall response is lower and the critical hour is 1-2pm with around 40% of the total response. So, the timing of your poll launch needs careful thought – especially considering the potential for different types of people to respond at different times.
  5. Character limit – you are limited to 116 characters and so the question has to be framed precisely and carefully. Keep it simple and avoid technical terms, but be creative to inspire people to vote. And encourage people to retweet to increase the organic tweet count.
  6. You are limited to 4 answer, single choice options – although restrictive, this can be positive. For example, where people have an equal number of options to choose from, you force people to vote to make a decision one way or the other. No sitting on the fence! However, there’s no multiple choice, which restricts the flexibility of questioning.
  7. 24hrs – voting closing within 24hrs can in fact be quite a limitation. It would be fantastic to allow the poll to stay open for longer to determine a more rounded view of a topic, but for now pollsters will need to create another poll at a later date (which, to be honest, isn’t a big issue)
  8. Representativeness – we are a research agency specialising in digital and using Twitter for polls suits us perfectly as we are keen to determine the views of those who are technology aware. However, it certainly isn’t the right vehicle to reach every audience.
What is it good for?
Essentially anything that can be contained within the 116 character limit and up to 4 answer options. At the time of writing it is not possible to include pictures or videos directly but you can include links. That gives you the option to show material to people and ask them to make choices.
Here are 8 thoughts from us to get your creative juices flowing on how you can use Twitter polls:
  1. Refining hypotheses – One of our clients asked whether people thought Smartwatches were a novelty item or here to stay. We found 77% thought they were novelty items and 23% were here to stay. We compared this with the same question in our wearables consumer attitudes tracker and the type of benefits they were looking for. Reassuringly we got a very similar percentage who thought they were novelty items in the tracker as the Twitter Poll, and we now know what benefits need to be developed to keep Smartwatch users engaged.
  2. Getting predictions – from winners of sports events to the hottest selling item this Christmas. Useful as a platform to build conversations, get attention for your brand or to use within PR.
  3. Gauging reactions to trending news topics – At the time the Russian athlete drug users were being discussed in the media we launched a poll to see whether people thought Russia should be banned from Rio 2016. 77% said “Yes they deserve it”, but 23% thought it was “too harsh”. This is potentially useful PR for you to show you are in touch or to assess whether you can gain from leaping into a debate.
  4. Generating buzz for your brand – developing interesting and fun questions that are likely to be retweeted. As part of this why not embed your tweets containing your polls in your blog. This engages readers, potentially widens the reach to your blog and the results of the poll give added value to your blog.
  5. Determining behaviour – we asked how people watch on demand video. During the day we were seeing high levels of viewing on tablets and smartphones, but as the poll entered the evening we saw an increase in those watching on their TV screen. This intuitively made sense and balanced the figures – at the end of the poll, 51% voted smartphone / tablet viewing, 49% TV viewing.
  6. (We wish we did this) Website look and feel – Driving users to your website to vote on a new visual design or adjustment is a simple way to gather opinions and has the potential to drive direction during a build.
  7. Investigating live events – we ran a poll looking at purchasing behaviour on Black Friday. We simply asked ‘Black Friday. What are your plans?’. As the day progressed, we saw levels of negativity towards it fall – at 11.37am we saw 57% of people voting ‘black what?’, but by 8.40pm this had reduced to 37%.
  8. (We think this would be interesting) What should your brand do? Something for the brave brand owners out there. Consider asking twitter users to vote on the main issues with your brand or what your brand should focus on to improve.
To sum up
The spirit of Twitter is bitesize pieces of information that are topical and informative. Our view is that the polls should be so – this isn’t a place for serious survey questions, at least for now. It is fun and a very low cost and fast way of getting information.
They may be fun, but there are indications they are also very effective. Whilst they have limitations and are not a mechanism for every topic and audience, we’ve seen how the results of a poll on Smartwatches compare well to our wearables tracking study that polls 1,000 nationally representative people.
Finally, keep in mind that voters on twitter are voting because the tweet has caught their interest, not because they are receiving a financial incentive. This emotional investment in the vote suggests the results can be trusted to be a robust representation of the true picture of a topic.
If you have used Twitter Polls we are keen to hear about your experiences. Feel free to tweet us @clicked_tweets