But a couple of trends have changed the landscape of data collection - the most powerful one has to do with how much time people have to complete (or not to complete) your survey. In addition to this, the proliferation of social media channels, polling and crowd sourcing have made data collection a little more complicated than it used to be.
The last article talked about setting research goals and objectives . The next step in the process is called "Lay out collection channels." I'm not sure if that's w formal word or phrase - but it is now.
What's a Collection Channel?
In the simplest terms a survey instrument is a collection channel. Other collection channels might include phone, online, poll, social media, facebook, LinkedIn, IdeaScale and so on. Wherever there is the possibility of gathering feedback from your audience about what your survey objectives are -- is a collection channel.
How to Strategically Lay Out Your Collection Channel
- Focus on your decision first. It's critical to focus on what decision you're trying to make. For example - "Should I invest in an iPhone app and if so what should it do?"
- List your criteria. Now that you're clear on the question and decision, start listing the criteria for that decision. Such as "I'll do an iPhone app if I can charge $1.00 for it" or "If more than 10,000 people will download it" or "If it drives more than 10,000 visitors to our site.
- What other questions do I have? The great thing about this new trend of breaking up where your data comes from is that it allows you to brainstorm on all the other questions or things you'd like to know from your audience -- let yourself go and list as many as you like. You're no longer limited by number of questions or survey length or size or cost - so let it fly.
- List ALL the different ways that you can collect information. Yes this is as simple as it sounds -- make a list: Facebook fan page, email, online survey, poll, crowd sourcing, etc. Don't forget to include traditional channels such as focus group or customer satisfaction index cards, etc.
- Exploratory and Qualitative Channels first. Just like in traditional research processes - you'll want to focus on collecting qualitative information first. Social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ning groups or forums, etc. Are ideal precursors to more expensive and formal focus groups. In fact - if you do a good enough design - AND depending on what your objectives are, you may now be able to skip focus groups all together. But don't just skip it because of the cost -- skip it only if these social media channels provide good enough data to give you the information you need.
- Match questions with channels. Pull all your vague, general exploratory conversational questions together and match them with what you think is the appropriate social media channel or traditional channel. Then pull all your quantitative questions and match them with quantitative channels.
- Keep it short. Your goal is to keep each collection method easy enough to complete in 1 to 3 minutes. I'm recommending this time frame based on the fact that the best length for YouTube videos is anywhere between 1 and 3 minutes. That's how long you can expect to keep any average respondent's attention. (Of course there are exceptions - but we're not talking about those).
- Post your channel layout in a visible place. While your decision and criteria will not change as quickly - what you ask and which channel you choose to ask it through might change as you learn more. It really helps to keep this plan big and visible. You might choose a white board in an office or a giant piece of paper. But make this a working - living document.
- Engage your audience and report often. Because these new channels will naturally engage your audience - you'll have the opportunity to report on what you're learning through all these channels. Don't miss this valuable opportunity to engage and involve your respondents in what you're doing. It's free marketing.
Ways to Involve Your Audience
- Report Results. Instead of writing some HUGE report no one will read. Report on your results monthly or quarterly. Analyze the data as it's coming in and tell your audience what you're learning. This will give them the opportunity to close the feedback loop and confirm or tweak what you're reporting.
- Create a download to share. You can re-purpose what you've learned. Look at the data differently - what other, more general and interesting insights did you get from the data? Now write a little mini report that you can share with your audience!
- Write a post or three. Of course the easiest thing to do is to start a conversation on your blog about what you're learning - this is a data collection method of its own. Be sure to tell your network that you've got a conversation going on and ask them to contribute and pass the links on.
Hey, I've just started thinking about this in this way - it's new to me. How about you? How are you structuring or re-structuring how you collect feedback?