February 13, 2023 Content Chat Recap: Why Brands Should Invest In Original Research

A Content Chat header image that says today’s topic is Why Brands Should Invest in Original Research with guest Michele Linn, who is @MicheleLinn on Twitter.

All you need is one survey to fuel a year’s worth of content—but that doesn’t mean that any research survey or topic will drive the intended results.

In this #ContentChat recap, Michele Linn, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, and the community discuss why brands should invest in original research and how to craft a study that will yield valuable insights that your community will love. Read the full recap below to learn:

  • How to dispel the common myths about conducting original research
  • Ways to get survey responses if you don’t have a list
  • Recommendations on how to invest your time during a research study

Erika and Michele discussed each of these questions on a LinkedIn Live audio conversation—listen to the recording here.

Q1: What are the different kinds of original research that content marketing teams can pursue?

Surveys are most commonly associated with research, but research can also include qualitative interviews, observational research, user data analysis, and public data analysis. Michele explains each of these below:

A1a. There are many types of original research you can publish, but here are five common ideas:
⭐ Survey-based research
⭐ Qualitative interviews
⭐ Observational research
⭐ Analysis of user data
⭐ Analysis of public data #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

A1b. Survey-based research gets turned into things like “State of” reports. You survey your audience to understand their perceptions and attitudes.

Here’s an example from @cmmicontent: https://t.co/5mkyXKjMvX #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

A1c. Qualitative interviews are ideal if you want to ask nuanced, “inside baseball” questions. Conduct interviews and share the high-level insights.

This works great if you don’t have a large audience to survey.

Here’s an example: https://t.co/km7Ix2Vkee #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

A1d. Observational research explores a topic by choosing something you want to understand and collecting data to learn how others do this.

Love this example from @crestodina: https://t.co/PuJayEBd4E #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

A1e. @semrush does a great job at looking at their user data and reporting on what they learned: https://t.co/TO8pde47eH) #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Q2: Why is it beneficial to invest in original research (especially in the age of AI)?

Original research answers your community’s unanswered questions and provides a launching pad for a year’s worth of content—if you conduct the necessary prep work, that is (more on that below).

A2b. Original research positively impacts so many parts of the business – and it’s a great competitive advantage if you want to publish something that AI can’t replicate #contentchat pic.twitter.com/VHYVLTfJUg

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

A2a. Original research works well for #contentmarketing and #thoughtleadership because you are answering your audience’s unanswered questions. By its very nature, you are adding something new and meaningful to your industry’s conversation. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Q3: What are the common misconceptions about original research that stop brands from exploring this potentially high-value content?

“All the research has already been done on our topic.” Erika dispels this myth in the audio chat. She recommends you keep a running list of all the stats you can’t find and everything you wish you knew about your ideal customers—all of this is a great survey starting point!

A3a: I frequently hear from company leaders that “all the research has already been done on our topic”. But as a creator who is always looking for research to include in my content, I can assure you that’s not the case! #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) February 13, 2023

A3b: Keep a running list of all the stats you can’t find, and all the things you wish you knew about your ideal customers’ needs, opinions, and success measures. You will have a survey starting point in no time. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) February 13, 2023

“Research is only for big brands. It’s too expensive for us.” Not quite! Companies of any size should conduct original research, and it can be especially useful for small and emerging brands, or those in niche industries.

A3a. Misconception #1: Original research works best if you’re an established brand and/or have a big budget.

Truth: Companies of any size can (and should) publish original research. It works especially well for small and emerging brands#contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Q3: That it is expensive to conduct. #ContentChat

— Andi Robinson (@hijinxmarketing) February 13, 2023

This is the main challenge I’ve faced with clients. Yes, research can be expensive—but there are so many options that can work within your budget. Also, it can be a smarter investment than other areas. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 13, 2023

A3: I hear the misconception of cost. Ie it costs too much! #ContentChat https://t.co/kwOZr28oJc

— Amy Higgins (@amywhiggins) February 13, 2023

It is the investment of time as well, not always do we have the luxury to carry out research to the extent we would like to! #Contentchat

— Shruti Deshpande 🇮🇳🇬🇧 (@shruti12d) February 13, 2023

That’s a great consideration, Shruti! On a related point: teams should be realistic about how much support they need to balance time + money. Some of my clients have written their own reports, when it would have been better (and probably quicker) to hire someone. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 13, 2023

Now that is a fantastic point, and i have been guilty of this, only to realize later that it could have been done faster by someone who does this always and is better at presenting the facts! #ContentChat

— Shruti Deshpande 🇮🇳🇬🇧 (@shruti12d) February 13, 2023

“We shouldn’t survey our own list because it’s biased.” Surveying your own list can actually help your research because your audience wants the answers to the questions you’re asking. This means they’ll be more thoughtful in their response and more willing to participate.

A3b. Misconception #2: You shouldn’t survey your own list because it’s biased.

Truth: Oftentimes, surveying your own list works well because your audience wants the answers to the questions you’re asking. So they’ll be thoughtful in their response. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

“Any original research report will get us results.” This mentality can waste your entire budget. You need to research what other reports exist and uncover areas that haven’t been discussed.

A3c. Misconception #3: “Just” publishing original research will get you results

Truth. You need to find a topic/niche that hasn’t been covered so you are offering something new. (The world does not need another “State of Content Marketing” report.) #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

True, those with ‘Trends and Tips’ gather eyeballs but only in the short term often. In-depth analysis go a long way! #ContentChat

— Shruti Deshpande 🇮🇳🇬🇧 (@shruti12d) February 13, 2023

Q4: If a content marketing team is considering conducting survey-based original research, what steps should they be prepared for? How long can original research take?

Michele shares her IDEA process and a potential research timeline below:

A4. The process I use is called IDEA.
I = Impact (This is the strategy/planning phase)
D= Data (Collect data)
E = Exploration (Find the story and launch your findings)
A = Amplification (Repurpose)

For a survey-based research projects, the steps look like this. #contentchat pic.twitter.com/6aAid9V8dn

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

A4a. Of course there are a lot of “it depends” factors, but I would plan at least 3 months.

1st month: Research strategy
2nd month: Field survey
3rd month: Analyze results, create findings #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Q5: What are the best tools and resources to help with conducting original research?

If you have a limited budget, Michele recommends you hire someone to help write your survey questions. Your questions are vital to your research value, so it’s best to invest in expert help for this area.

A5. If you have a limited budget, my suggestion is to get help writing your survey questions. You need questions that will help you uncover stories. And you also also need a keen eye to ensure the questions are clear and can be easily answered. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Connect with others who are conducting research so you can share ideas and learn from each other. Social media channels can be one way to find others involved in research.

A5. Also consider finding others who are also working on research so you can share ideas and learn from one another. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Tools like Alchemer and SurveyMonkey are perfect for conducting surveys.

A5. If you’re conducting survey-based research, the only tool you really need is a survey tool like @alchemer or @SurveyMonkey . (Not all survey tools are created equal, so you’ll need to find one that works for you.) #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Have used @surveymonkey a bunch of times, thanks for mentioning the other one, got to check it out! #contentchat

— Shruti Deshpande 🇮🇳🇬🇧 (@shruti12d) February 13, 2023

Q6: A common challenge for teams is that they do not have an engaged email list, so they think conducting original research is unviable. How can brands in this situation get the respondents they need?

Michele and Erika share their advice below, including how you can use a survey panel or partner with others to get your survey respondents.

A6. You have two options to get survey responses if you don’t have an engaged list:
👉 Partner with others (this is free)
👉 Use a panel (this costs money)#contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

A6. For instance, when my company was new, we partnered with @Buzzsumo to survey marketers on if/how they are using survey-based research. It’s a win-win because we used their list and had a co-branded report. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

A6. My fav way to get responses: partnerships.

Ideal partners:
👍 Have a large, engaged audience (think: communities, SaaS tools, event organizers, publications)
👍 Want answers to the questions you’ll be asking
👍 Already have a relationship with your brand #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

A6: I hear this objection a lot! But you can partner with companies like @CMSwire or @SpiceworksZD to conduct your research. And survey platforms like @surveymonkey also can help you acquire respondents. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) February 13, 2023

Q7: How should you write survey questions to get the richest insights?

From a content marketing standpoint, your survey questions build a foundation for new editorial. Michele recommends you ask questions that will expose a disconnect, reveal a gap, uncover a pain point, pinpoint a missed opportunity, or explore a hotly contested topic.

A7. Great survey questions for #contentmarketing and #thoughtleadership

* Are jumping off places for editorial
* Are rooted in credible data #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

A7. Think about how you can ask questions that will:

🔥 Expose a disconnect
🔥 Reveal a gap
🔥 Uncover a pain point
🔥 Pinpoint a missed opportunity
🔥 Ask an “Oxford comma” question
🔥 Show differences between segments#contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Use a combination of predefined response questions and open response fields to get more context around your topic.

A7: It’s important to use a combination of predefined response questions and open response fields so you have the opportunity for greater context around your topic, and identify great people to follow-up with to add color to your research report. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) February 13, 2023

Michele and the community discussed writing great survey questions at length in this past chat recap.

Q8: What mistakes have you seen teams make when writing questions?

There are many common mistakes you want to avoid when writing survey questions and crafting the survey. For starters: Don’t require an email address from your attendees, and use words that your respondents use (not corporate jargon or marketing speak).

So easy to make survey mistakes!

A8. Some common ones include:

👎 Requiring an email address
👎 Using words your company uses instead of the words your survey taker uses
👎 Using the wrong type of question #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Writing the questionnaire is half the art of getting the right answers, and about the jargons is so true. Doesn’t help the audience to answer accurately. #ContentChat

— Shruti Deshpande 🇮🇳🇬🇧 (@shruti12d) February 13, 2023

Look for opportunities to ask a follow-up question, and ask questions that your survey takers can answer. Ensure there is a valid answer option for every question.

More survey mistakes:

👎 Not including a valid answer option for the survey taker
👎 Missing an opportunity to answer a follow up question
👎 Asking survey takers questions they don’t have the knowledge to answer
👎 Using words like “biggest”#contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Include an “other” option for respondents to share something you did not anticipate or elaborate on their answer (which could provide incredibly valuable insights).

A8a: The biggest mistake I’ve seen content marketers make when writing their survey questions is forgetting to include an “other” response that allows a response you anticipate to be shared with you. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) February 13, 2023

Often awesome audience insights are found in those open text boxes, though i agree there can be many vague replies too! #Contentchat

— Shruti Deshpande 🇮🇳🇬🇧 (@shruti12d) February 13, 2023

I ALWAYS ask 1 -2 write in questions. They are essential for data cleaning. And, as you say, you can sometimes use the response in your report. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Yes. 💯 I think AI can help with sorting out those low value answers now though#ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) February 13, 2023

Think through the story you are going to tell with your answers. Does every question add value to this story?

A8b: The second biggest mistake I see is writing the survey questions without first thinking about what the story is you are going to tell with the answers. Don’t waste a ton of space with “so what?” questions. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) February 13, 2023

Thoroughly test your survey, and enable survey respondents to report technical issues or problems they face. Michele recommends you soft launch your survey to a small sample to test for issues.

👇 Not leaving a space for the survey taker to comment on technical issues / problems with the survey #ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) February 13, 2023

This brings up two great points:
1. You need to thoroughly test your survey
2. Many teams shy away from open response boxes because the responses take significantly longer to analyze. However, this space can give you incredibly valuable feedback. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 13, 2023

It’s SO important to test your survey. My suggestion:
1) Test with internal testers and a few people outside of your company before your survey is live.
2) Soft launch your survey to a small sample to see if there are any issues. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

If you’re unsure of how many questions to ask, focus instead on the length of the survey. Michele recommends you aim for 5-7 minutes. That said, as Michele mentions in the audio recap, most survey drop-off occurs early on in the survey—so having more questions is not a guaranteed way to lower your response rate.

My suggestion is to focus on length of survey, not the number of questions. I aim for 5 – 7 minutes. And put the most important questions first. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Q9: Open Q&A: What questions do you have for Michele and Erika about crafting an original research study?

What is a good number of respondents for a survey?

B2B studies should have at least 250 respondents total, and general consumer studies should have at least 1,000. Aim for 100 respondents per slice, but B2B research may have fewer respondents per slice.

Question: What is a good number of respondents if you conduct a survey for research purposes? #ContentChat

— Andi Robinson (@hijinxmarketing) February 13, 2023

100 would be the minimum for most topics/audiences, but 300+ is usually seen as more definitive.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) February 13, 2023

I am similar to Erika. I like at least 250 for B2B and at least 1000 if a general consumer study.

Something to think about: if you want to compare segments (e.g. Millennials vs Gen X), you’ll need enough people in those segements.#contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

A: Would love to hear @michelelinn’s thoughts. But I find with quantitative it depends on the depth of the questions and how you are going to slide & dice the data. Mins. are usually around 100 per slice. #contentchat https://t.co/GnoIQbfulT

— Amy Higgins (@amywhiggins) February 13, 2023

I like 100 per slice, too, but sometimes you can get away with less per slice if B2B. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

How should you present original research?

First, assess your goals and how content can help you accomplish those goals. If your goal is to earn leads, for example, then you will need to gate your findings.

Next, think of how you can create unique content for each of your owned content channels (blog, email newsletter) and social media channels.

Some general ideas include: create an interactive landing page, write an SEO blog post, explore the findings in a series of blog posts, share key takeaways in visuals on social media, and film a fireside chat with your company executives or subject matter experts discussing the findings.

A9: How should original research be presented ideally? 🤔 🍭

Are blog posts and white papers still the standard?

I noticed brands are also dripping the research results across social media posts with graphs 📊 #ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) February 13, 2023

If your goal is backlinks, an SEO blog post can work REALLY well.

If you goal is leads, you can create a PDF and gate your findings.

That said, never link to the form. Link to a landing page that gives someone a lot of info. (Editors won’t link to forms.) #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Another options is an interactive landing page. Here’s just one example from a brand that does this well: https://t.co/nbHsYrfn14#contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

And, yes, you can repurpose your research in a lot of ways! Here’s one post on LinkedIn that shares the 5 Rs of repurposing reserch: https://t.co/e78BNH6fLM#contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

A combination of everything you mentioned is likely best, but depends on your audience(s) and research type! Press release to announce the research (if relevant), a series of blog posts to explore the findings, white paper behind a paywall possibly… #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 13, 2023

And 100% agreed on social media graphics and visuals. Research is a valuable asset you should promote on social media however possible. Graphs, pull quotes, infographics are all ideas. Consider hosting live conversations about the findings, too. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) February 13, 2023

Infographics work really well, especially to engage top funnel audience in my opinion, and for those further down the funnel – detailed whitepapers and analysis helps! #ContentChat

— Shruti Deshpande 🇮🇳🇬🇧 (@shruti12d) February 13, 2023

Love these ideas! There is so much you can do with research. Think about the channels you are on and then create content that makes sense for that channel. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

Should you provide an incentive to survey participants? Michele recommends you find something that is not monetary but still valuable, like free services or upgrades.

Question: how do you feel about giving something away as an incentive for taking the survey (particularly a longer one)? #ContentChat

— Andi Robinson (@hijinxmarketing) February 13, 2023

My suggestion is to find something that is not monetary but something valuable to your audience.

For instance, I once did a survey of dentists and they offered free dental crowns as an incentive.

Monetary incentives can result in spam. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

I think it is always a great idea to reward people for parting away with their time which will ultimately help us! #ContentChat

— Shruti Deshpande 🇮🇳🇬🇧 (@shruti12d) February 13, 2023

How can you maximize your response rate for a research study? Reinforce why you are conducting the survey and explain how the results will help your participants.

How do you get a high response on a research study? I’m noticing a particularly low response from my followers. Granted, I generally don’t participate in surveys either. So, what’s some good advice for getting a high response rate?#ContentChat

— TCKlaire (@tckdigitalnomad) February 13, 2023

Honestly, it can be really hard. My suggestion is to let people know why you are conducting the survey and how they results will help them.

And think about how you can partner with someone to help you get responses.#contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) February 13, 2023

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