November 7, 2022 Content Chat Recap: How to Use Surveys to Fuel Your Content Marketing Strategy

A Content Chat header image that says today's topic is How To Use Surveys to Fuel Your Content Marketing Strategy with guest Michele Linn, who is @MicheleLinn on Twitter.

One survey can give your marketing team enough information to plan a year’s worth of content—do you want to learn how?

In this #ContentChat recap, Michele Linn, founder of Mantis Research, and the community discuss how to use surveys to fuel your content marketing strategy. Read the full recap below to learn:

  • Why survey-based research is valuable for marketing teams
  • How to write questions that will help you tell stories
  • Ways to announce and repurpose your survey findings
  • Mistakes to avoid throughout your journey

Q1: Why do content marketing teams conduct and publish survey-based research? What are some examples of brands doing this well? 

Survey-based research is valuable because it adds something new and meaningful to your industry’s conversation.

A1a. Survey-based research works well 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) November 7, 2022

The work you did with the @CMIContent annual research projects are such fantastic examples of this, Michele. At the time when the term “content marketing” was new, it was SO helpful to have compelling data to help us make the case for investment.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

A1a: Survey-based research can be very powerful for storytelling because it provides a snapshot of real human experiences and feelings. It helps for creating timely content and reinforces the importance of certain topics/potential content angles. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) November 7, 2022

And there are business benefits of conducting survey-based research: it can improve your brand awareness and authority, generate new subscribers and leads, and ultimately boost your revenue.

A1b. Publishing survey-based research can help you with so many of your marketing & business goals:
– Brand awareness
– Brand authority/thought leadership
– Backlinks/SEO rankings
– Email subscribers
– Leads
– Even revenue 🙂 #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Your research can be used to engage thought leaders and potential partners.

It gives you a great reason to reach out to industry thought leaders, potential partners, and past/current customers, too. Nothing like sending an email with the gift of useful research inside!#ContentChat https://t.co/66iMRQ80iH

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

Independent research is great for earning backlinks, which strengthens your SEO.

A1. Brand positioning and immaculate SEO power. Independent research is some of the most linked-to content out there #ContentChat

— Chris Tweten 🍁 | SaaS SEO (@ctwtn) November 7, 2022

I second this. I know I am always looking for compelling research and recent survey data to back up key points in everything I write.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

+1 on the value of backlinks. A few of my clients get media mentions from high-reach outlets for more than a year after they publish their research. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) November 7, 2022

Surveys can also fuel your content strategy.

A1c. One of my favorite reasons to conduct research: One study can give you a year’s worth of content. A wonderful way to tell a connected story + fill your editorial calendar. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Exactly that. But also: It’s not just content, it’s *credible* content, backed by research. Not just your opinion, but opinion that can be backed up by others’ opinions. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) November 7, 2022

YES! This is so important. We recently wrote a piece for a client where we are citing and quoting a number of stats from recent research that supports their mission and POV. Takes it from opinion to fact.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

A1: It provides valuable industry insights—which is useful both for the company’s own understanding, and for their audience. Bc of the latter, it fuels high-value content that gains links and builds thought leadership. #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) November 7, 2022

Absolutely! The biggest mistake is to invest all that effort and $ in research and not make the most of it. #ContentChat https://t.co/joH73Zx7tV

— Carmen Hill (@carmenhill) November 7, 2022

A lesser-known benefit of original research: It energizes your team.

A1d. One unexpected benefit I’ve seen with original research: it energizes teams. There is nothing like brainstorming questions that people want answered and then finding out what people actually think. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

What brands publish great survey-based research? The community shares our favorites below.

A1e. Check out PWC’s annual CEO study. A great example of how to present research for multiple audiences in multiple formats (e.g. interactive charts, audio, etc.): https://t.co/EV8dS3IndM #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

A1f. Another great example: StackOverflow’s annual developer study: https://t.co/9TWUgU3ui9 #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

A1b: I think that @salesforce, @CMIContent, and @HubSpot effectively use survey-based research as part of their #contentmarketing strategies. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) November 7, 2022

In addition to those, I love the work @McKinsey is doing on the future of work, and @pewresearch has been publishing on global internet usage and COVID-related topics.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

A1: I like how @YouGov handles content marketing. They leave the interpretation open to the audience and explain how the survey was conducted every time.#ContentChat

— Sweepsify (@Sweepsify_) November 7, 2022

Q2: How do I get people to respond to my survey? Should I use an incentive?

You can get survey respondents through your own lists, partnerships, or by paying for responses through survey panels.

A2a. There are three ways to get survey respondents:
– Your own list
– Partnerships
– Survey panels (i.e. paying for responses) #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

A2b. My favorite way to get responses is to use your own list (if you have one) + partnerships. Essentially, you want to partner with someone who 1) has a large list of those you want to survey and 2) wants answers to similar questions. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Be clear about why you’re conducting the research, how you’ll use the data, and how long the survey will take. This is especially helpful if you want to distinguish your survey as a legitimate research request vs a marketing or sales asset.

Do you have any suggestions for how you can help distinguish your survey as a legitimate research request from something that might be interpreted as a lead development/nurturing tactic? #ContentChat

— Derek Pillie 🎯 (@derekpillie) November 7, 2022

I think it’s useful to be upfront about WHY you are running the survey and HOW you’ll use the data. Definitely don’t ask for email address up front! That makes it feel like a marketing request.

I also think people trusting your brand to do right by them also helps #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Don’t ask for contact information until the end, and make those questions optional. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) November 7, 2022

100% This drives me crazy!! And, if you get the email, only use it to send them the report. Don’t opt them into your email list!

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

That’s a good point, too. How many surveys have I taken where I never saw the results? Maybe it was my fault if I didn’t provide contact info, but … I suspect it wasn’t. Follow-up is important. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) November 7, 2022

Incentives can be useful but potentially hard to manage at scale and skew your results.

A2: Keep it short and be clear about how long it will take upfront. An incentive can be useful, but may be hard to manage at scale (unless it’s being entered in a drawing) #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) November 7, 2022

A legit expectation of timing is very important. Even loyal or interested community folks will pass on a too-long survey. On the other hand, an incentive may skew results. Some people will take the survey just to win the prize. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) November 7, 2022

Decide if you need an incentive based on how long your survey is and the type of respondent you need.

A2: If it takes less than 5 minutes no incentive is necessary. But if the survey is layered and takes time definitely offer a gift card or an incentive. #ContentChat

— Michelle Ngome 🇨🇲 (@MichelleNgome) November 8, 2022

A2a: This will partially depend on how long the survey is and the respondent profile you’re trying to reach (general consumers? C-suite?). #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) November 7, 2022

If you provide an incentive, tailor it to your participant. Ideas include gift cards, early access to new product features, and discounted services.

A2b: I often see brands enter survey respondents into a raffle to win a gift card or prize. However, a survey incentive can also include:
– First-look at the data
– Early access to new product features
– Discounted services
– Coupon code
#ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) November 7, 2022

I really like these ideas. I think you’re more likely to find your right participant if they inventive is specialized to them. Once I did a survey for dentists and they offered a chance to win crowns. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Q3: How can marketers best write survey questions to tell a story?

Write questions that you can build from in your content. Ask about pain points or struggles and (missed) opportunities, and include response options that are entertaining or counter-intuitive.

A3a. Start by asking yourself: how am I going to use the data from this question? Your goal is to ask questions that are obvious stories or are jumping off points for more editorial. Avoid “inventory stats,” which are findings you report but can’t do much with. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

I like to think to myself, would the answer to this question make a great headline for a trade publication reporting on this research? #ContentChat https://t.co/3xIbuikVH6

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

A3b. One easy way: ask questions that uncover a pain point. Ask respondents about their struggles. (Lots of editorial from this as you share how people can solve those challenges.) #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

A3c. Think about pinpointing a missed opportunity. I once asked if those who conduct research publish the methodology. Only 66% did. 100% of those who publish research should include a methodology! #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

It feels like it’s such an obvious thing to include in your report! Doesn’t it make you wonder “why” when you don’t see it? i.e. was it a small, biased subset of people?#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

Seek to better understand your customers through your questions.

A3. I think any story that a biz owner wants to write is about the problems they can solve. Surveys help to better understand your demo and what info can help to better serve the customer. #contentchat

— LindaRey.eth | NFT Coming to a Token Near You (@HeyLindaRey) November 7, 2022

Ask yourself: Does each question help you accomplish your survey goals?

A3 As with so much, it goes back to the strategy: Why are you doing the survey? How do you plan to use the findings? What are you hoping to learn? Answering those Qs first will guide your question writing. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) November 7, 2022

Yes! There are so many questions you need to ask/consider before jumping into writing the survey questions. That said, I always suggest that people think about how they can explore a topic with curiosity. Don’t do a survey to prove the value of your product/solution #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Q4: What type of survey questions should marketers ask?

Ask about something that people in your industry will have a differing opinion about—Michele calls it an “Oxford comma” question.

I like to ask an “Oxford comma” question. What is something – like the Oxford comma – that people in your industry have a differing opinion about. The data from this can be used in a lot of ways. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

It’s something that you know will 1) get the respondent engaged and wanting to know what’s next, and 2) will generate some buzz when you publish your results, too! It’s especially fun to track over time.#ContentChat https://t.co/tHxtUUhyYQ

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

Ask questions that can provide interesting comparisons, like how different ages or genders answered the question.

Ask questions you can use to compare responses. For instance, readers love hearing how different ages/generations think about a topic differently. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Anything you feel like you can’t get from demographic #data is fair game. #ContentChat https://t.co/Sx0gKlS8me

— DiKayo | dikayo.eth ♠️❤️♣️♦️ (@dikayodata) November 7, 2022

Consider if a follow-up question will make your previous responses more valuable.

I also think it’s a good idea to ask yourself if there is a follow up question you can ask to make the finding more valuable. For instance, UiPath first asks RPA developers: What is important to you? (They list things such as salary)

Then . . .

#ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

A4. Then they ask: “How satisfied are you in each of these areas?”

The difference between importance and satisfaction is the gap, which you can see in this chart. One question would not have shown the story; you need 2 questions. Think how you can dig deeper. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/KqljeMIfQW

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Provide a scale of responses, like “essential, nice to have, not important” or “very difficult, somewhat difficult, neutral, somewhat easy, very easy.” You can group your positive and negative responses to tell a richer story based on how the data comes out.

A4c. I also love scale questions, but think beyond agree > disagree. For instance, I once ran a study about thought leadership and asked which qualities are essential > nice to have > not important. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/GYs1JYSDnu

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

5-point scales work really well. Just need to make sure they are balanced with positive and negative options. For instance, if asking about difficulty
Very difficult
Somewhat difficult
Neutral
Somewhat easy
Very easy#contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

A4. And oftentimes, forcing a yes/no will give you stronger data, especially if you are using something for PR. Only give two options and make someone choose. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Allow respondents to provide more context to their responses. You can use these quotes in your report and derivative content.

As a survey respondent, I always appreciate when the questions are easy, but there’s space to provide more context. That gives you more info as well, and quotes you can include in your report/content (with permission) #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) November 7, 2022

This feels like the perfect way to blend the quantitative responses needed to form the foundation of the survey with qualitative data to flesh out the report and derivative content.#ContentChat https://t.co/mH4eF3BAXC

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

Q5: What mistakes do teams often make when conducting surveys for thought leadership and content marketing?

There are many mistakes that teams can make when conducting surveys. Do not rush the process, and give your team plenty of time to prepare and research best practices.

A5a. So. many. mistakes. But so many of these mistakes are unintentional because marketers aren’t taught how to craft good surveys. It takes practice. And you need good testers who can spot errors. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

To start: Research similar studies to see what is already out there, what questions they asked, and if it was covered by the media. Do not copy the studies you research.

A5: Don’t create your survey in a vacuum. Search for similar research and see what is already out there—what questions have been answered, what angle did news stories take, and can you add anything NEW to the conversation? #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) November 7, 2022

I’ve recently seen some surveys that lifted most of their questions from other, more established surveys. I have to guess they have an executive who says they can’t quote any research by a company with any overlap…but it’s still a worst practice.#ContentChat https://t.co/1CEjIsGDB9

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

Yes! When deciding on a research topic, choose something that is:
– Meaningful to your audience
– Aligned with your brand
– Says something new

Too many similar studies out there! #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Ask at least one question to qualify your survey respondent. Are they the right type of person you’re looking to survey?

A5b. Make sure you ask one or more questions to verify the right person is answering your survey — and then disqualifying those that don’t fit your target. Too many DIY surveys let anyone answer. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

A5: Asking obvious questions or asking questions to the wrong demographic.

E.g. Asking are you having a baby via a surrogate to a group of people who are taking surveys for $8 🤣🍭#ContentChat

— Sweepsify (@Sweepsify_) November 7, 2022

Ask simple and clear questions.

A5c. Remember that your survey takers are not thinking about this topic as deeply as you are – and keep things simple. I keep a swipe file of survey mistakes and this one of the worst questions I’ve seen. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/P7spQJVrcT

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Lots of surveys make mistakes with wording. This allows for participants answering what they think to be the question and thereby creating unnecessary variance. Be clear! #ContentChat https://t.co/btkP2VxIYM

— DiKayo | dikayo.eth ♠️❤️♣️♦️ (@dikayodata) November 7, 2022

Provide all options for responses.

A5. Another mistake: Don’t leave your survey takers with no option. For instance, this example needs and option for “I don’t know.” When you force an answer, respondents “satisfice” or leave the survey. Both impact data quality. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/1XGdTzJrmC

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Thoroughly test your survey before sending it out.

Testing is such an important and often skipped-over part of the survey process.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

Editors make GREAT survey testers! #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Put your audience’s interests ahead of your team’s interests.

A5a. As with everything, it’s a mistake to not put your audience interests first. Develop your hypotheses based on what your audience wants to know, not what your internal team is most interested in. #contentchat

— Carmen Hill (@carmenhill) November 7, 2022

I am hearing this issue come up more often. There is friction between what product teams want to know and marketing. They often serve different purposes. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

I’m always sad when too many of those “no one cares” questions sneak their way into a final survey at the expense of what would have been juicy, unique data. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

That is a pet peeve of mine, too. But I have talked to lots of people who run surveys and then realize, “wait, there is nothing interesting to report!” Need to plan stories from the beginning. #contentchat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Ask questions that will provide clear answers and findings that are easy to explain.

A5b. Also, it’s important to frame questions in a way that yields clear findings that don’t require a dissertation to explain. Most people don’t have the patience or interest in the nuances of your data. #contentchat

— Carmen Hill (@carmenhill) November 7, 2022

Q6: What are some common channels or content formats marketers should use to announce their primary survey results?

Choose one place for your research that all content will point to. This is often a landing page with an overview of the research and some findings, or a blog post about the survey.

A6a. Start by deciding on one page where all research-related assets should point. This is often a landing page that includes some highlights about the study. Here’s my swipe file with some examples. #ContentChat https://t.co/iYYyj9Zeux

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

A6b. Your “one page” can also be a blog post like @crestodina uses for his annual blogging study. As Andy suggests, optimize it for a stats-related phrase. #ContentChat https://t.co/PpLiIUKbdM

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Partner with influencers and ask them to lend a quote about your findings.

A6c. You can also share your findings with influencers in your industry. Even better, ask them for a quote you can use in your findings. For instance, what would they do to solve an issue you uncovered? What surprises them about the data? #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Consider hosting a webinar to reveal or discuss your findings. The webinar could involve your company executives talking about the results and what stood out to them.

A6d. If your goal is leads, consider announcing your findings via a webinar before or immediately after your report is released. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Michele shares a few other ideas below:

A6e: A few other options for announcing your research:
– Email to people who completed report
– Share it in your email newsletter
– Announce it via a press release
– Twitter thread
– Announce it on social media
– Share in your community#ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

A6f. And don’t forget to share your research internally as well. Consider creating a cheat sheet for your employees and/or sales with key findings, your POV, links, etc. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Q7: How can marketers repurpose their survey findings?

Michele advocates for the five Rs: Reuse…

A7a. I have 5Rs of repurposing research:
Reuse
Reflect
Repurpose
Reveal
Reimagine #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

A7b. Reuse is simplest because you directly pull something from your report and use it in another channel. Ex: Key findings on LinkedIn or charts on Twitter. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Reflect…

A7c. Reflect is my favorite way. “Think in public” about your findings. Share a finding + your perspective and use it to start a **genuine** conversation. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

Repurpose…

A7d. Repurpose is adapting/adding to content so it can be used in a different channel. Ex: Key findings to a webinar → Webinar to blog post → Blog post to series of LinkedIn posts, etc. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

That can also be a fantastic opportunity to involve partners or industry analysts/experts in the research, which lends it even more credibility. Plus, you get questions you can answer in future content and research!#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

Reveal…

A7e. Reveal = reveal solutions. Share what someone should do if they are experiencing a challenge or missed opportunity you discovered. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

And reimagine.

A7f. Reimagine is using the data that wasn’t published in the initial report. Oftentimes, this is looking at data based on how various segments (e.g. age/generation) compare. Can use this for new reports, blog posts, graphics, etc. #ContentChat

— Michele Linn (@michelelinn) November 7, 2022

When I was an in-house content marketer, I always had an “Info Repository” GSheet that had all sorts of internal and external stats with citations, tagged to make it easy to find and reuse them consistently. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) November 7, 2022

If you conduct recurring research, compare your year-over-year findings as part of your content series.

A7: Show ppl the old survey data and ask what they think now.

Start tracking the data over time. Use it in measuring your CX KPIs#ContentChat

— Sweepsify (@Sweepsify_) November 7, 2022

Year-over-year comparisons are great for understanding your story and seeing how your space is changing. And if you follow your cadence (annual, quarterly, whatever) then the media and your community will know they can rely on you for timely stats. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) November 7, 2022

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