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  Polls and Surveys?
What are some basic guidelines for running surveys? What type of role do you see them playing in a technology community within a company?

Online polls or surveys are an excellent way to glean information or enlist feedback. Because the majority of polls and surveys use very specific and defined questions they are very effective and efficient as a user-experience, and also can generate easily interpreted information for analysis and development. Add the ability to discuss in more expansive ways or add an incentive to filling out the poll or survey and you have a useful community tool.

When creating surveys/polls it is important to remember the following;

1) Provide thought provoking questions and answers to stimulate interest and participation.

2) Ensure the answers are diverse enough to cater to your audience but simple enough to encourage responses. Including an “All of the Above” or “None of the Above” will assist greatly in catering for needs.

3) Make questions clear and concise. Confusing and verbose questions will discourage your members from participating.

4) A simple quality check of all questions and answers before they go live is key. This is to ensure that there are no grammatical errors, typos or misspelled words. This may appear obvious, but it is easily forgotten. If the content is laden with mistakes, members will be less likely to take the survey/poll seriously.

5) If you intend that the poll or survey be time-limited make this very clear so that casual visitors are encouraged to participate.

6) If you can provide an incentive to potential respondees do so.

7) Where possible also use tie-ins to connect your poll or survey to your other community venues, such as a message board or chat area. This is useful in the sense that discussions there might reveal extra information about poll participants and their answers, and provide ways for users to communicate that your poll or survey cannot accommodate.

8) If you are seeking opinions or other forms of feedback then you should ensure that your participants see the results in some published form, even if only in a very summarized manner.

The above suggestions should provide you with indicators as to the use and role that a survey or poll can play in a company’s technology community. They can be an effective and time efficient way to gain staff input. They are also an excellent way to encourage your staff to participate and share in the growth or direction of your company or a particular project. When you provide staff a means to communicate and contribute, you are providing them with the feeling that their opinion matters and that the company values them. This is a tremendous asset when building staff morale and team cohesiveness.

- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas
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