5 Survey Distribution Methods To Get More Respondents

Before we begin, if you are ready to get responses now, Register For Free. You can create and deploy your survey in minutes or use an existing survey. 

TL;DR: New survey distribution methods are stepping up to replace “legacy” methods. These methods have fallen out of favor in the smartphone era. Frankly, market researchers are moving on from them, and you should too. Read on to learn how you can take advantage of these methods today!

Let’s Get Started.

“Legacy” Survey Distribution Methods (NOT Recommended)

5 (Better) Survey Distribution Methods

You’ve created the perfect survey. What survey distribution methods will get you the most respondents?

You’ve mulled over this more times than you’ve been to the coffee machine. You’ve decided on the perfect survey methodology, created survey questions, created every combination of answers – even perfected the order of the questions. Then you reviewed it, and changed. Shared it with someone else for their review, and probably changed it again.

So now, it’s perfect. You should get the exact data you want, from the people you want to reach.

Only one problem – how do you distribute your survey so you reach the right respondents?

The truth is there are as many ways to distribute surveys as there are to distribute any other type of content.

The question is who can distribute your survey to more respondents faster, and for less, without sacrificing data quality.

Let’s take a look at some of these available methods and how you may be able to find a better way.

“Legacy” Survey Distribution Methods Are Fatally Flawed

There are several methods to distribute your survey that have been in use for decades.

The problem is it isn’t 1980 anymore. The old ways of conducting surveys, while still widely in use among market research agencies and companies alike, are slow and prone to data quality issues.

Here are just a few of the issues with legacy survey distribution solutions:

  • Telephone surveys

    With so few people actually answering calls from unfamiliar numbers, there is diminishing effectiveness for this method in the digital age.

    According to a 2017 study from the US Department of Health, 50.8 percent of American households are now smartphone-only, which only adds to the problem for phone surveyors.


  • In-person interviews

    These are time-consuming, but can be effective. You can get in-depth responses and measure reactions and body language, but this limits your exposure to wide audiences.

    Your survey may also be subject to interviewer bias. This method is also costly, as you have to pay for an interviewer’s time and convene an in-person panel.


  • Google Search Ads

    You can advertise your survey via AdWords, but this can get expensive, as there is no guarantee that people who click the ad will finish the survey.

    You also have to be really good at writing copy to get people to click the ad, and you need to outrank anyone else for similar keywords.

    But the biggest downside to this method for many researchers is AdWords doesn’t offer the level of demographic or psychographic filtering to make sure they are targeting the right audience.

    Imagine you are a fisherman dropping a line in a river where a lot of fish are swimming. You have no idea the quality or type of fish you may find, and you may not catch anything at all. That’s why this method–using paid search ads or other web banners–is often called “river sampling.”


  • Panel Sampling

    Recruiting members from an affiliate site to be a part of an ongoing market research panel is a tried-and-true method of getting survey respondents.

    It works because survey takers are constantly available, researchers can select and filter respondents by a variety of criteria and the cost is not typically prohibitive.

    But with people spending more and more time on their smartphones, researchers have begun to wonder if they can do better.

    Panels are often fraught with data quality issues–professional survey takers rushing through surveys to get the incentives offered and get on to the next survey. If you tap the same people to take surveys over and over, are you really getting a representative sample?

5 (Better) Survey Distribution Methods To Get More Respondents

So if “legacy” methods can’t be trusted, how should researchers go about getting more respondents for their surveys?

Some newer sampling methods are stepping up to challenge these legacy methods. How do they hold up? Will they work for you?

  1. Random Device Engagement

    By far, the best way to distribute surveys is through a method called Random Device Engagement. This allows you to deliver surveys inside mobile apps, where consumers are engaged and can be easily incentivized non-monitarily. This eliminates the issues of professional panelists.

    Full disclosure–this is what Pollfish is built for.

    By partnering with mobile app publishers, Pollfish has created a network of over 600M potential survey respondents. Using information provided to app publishers, Pollfish allows you to create, target and deploy mobile-optimized surveys to app users in minutes.

    In exchange for taking your survey, app publishers may offer non-monetary in-app incentives (think an extra life in a game). Because these are not paid panelists, our 600M respondents create a truly representative sample of people not simply rushing through to move on to their next payday.In order to further prevent issues with false completes, Pollfish created proprietary machine learning technology that screens out low-quality responses, leaving you with fast, high-quality consumer insights.

  2. Share your survey on social media

    Another online method of survey distribution looking to replace legacy methods is called Assisted Crowd Sourcing. This method has benefits and some serious downsides, but is a fast, organic way of creating survey sample at scale.

    Assisted crowd sourcing uses social media ads to target based on quota sampling criteria and creates a sample from ad respondents.

    Because Facebook is an organic environment–people go there to hang out, not to take a survey–you eliminate the paid-survey-participant problem.

    And because Facebook collects so much demographic data, it is relatively inexpensive to target down to very small sample sizes.However, this method has significant downsides.

    Because Facebook’s algorithm is built to show your ad to the person most likely to click on it, your sample is not truly random. You are most likely to get respondents who already have a great deal of knowledge (based on past Facebook engagement) with the topic your survey covers.

    You can read more about the issues with assisted crowd sourcing here.

  3. Share your survey on your website or blog

    If you have enough traffic and are interested in hearing mainly from people who are in-market for your service, why not share your survey on your website or blog?

    Because you own the channel, you can get a detailed look into the people who choose to fill out your survey. You can manage elimination of survey bias, you can ask screening questions to target responses and you can get as many responses as you can drive to your webpage or blog post.

  4. Hire a Market Research agency

    Market research agencies with a background in statistical analysis have committed to randomly selecting people from a carefully crafted population that fits their client’s needs and reaching out to them. This ensures that the panel selected for the survey is truly representative.

    Agencies will use a variety of methods to collect survey responses at scale, but will carefully manage the selection process and eliminate bogus responses once the survey has concluded.

    The best part about this is you can keep in touch with respondents after the survey has concluded.

    But you are also at the mercy of big agencies who, with large rosters of clients, may take a while to get this all done.

  5. Send surveys via email

    If you want to survey your target market, one of the best ways is by leveraging your existing client base.

    You can survey your clients as to why they chose you and what their thoughts are on your latest product.

    Or, you can run a referral incentive program, asking your existing client base to forward your survey on to their friends, offering them an incentive for their trouble.


How Is Pollfish Different?


At Pollfish, we take a slightly different approach to reaching survey respondents, as we value the experience of the user, and want to provide the researcher with the highest-quality data.

  • We don’t recruit or pay panelists
  • We don’t distribute surveys through paid channels like Social Media, Google Ads, or Affiliates
  • We don’t force people to answer a survey to unlock premium content
  • We don’t pay respondents per survey, or referral

We have over 600M consumers in our Survey Network – primarily on mobile.

So how do we get access to  them?

We enable the app publisher to incentivize a respondent for participating in one of two ways.

  1. Publishers can provide in-app rewards for participation
  2. Survey respondents are prompted and are entered in to a random drawing

Is Random Device Engagement Really That Much Better?

We have found that, by using this method,

  • We get better survey respondents – they’re engaged in the app, and have a high response rate since they aren’t distracted by other outside influences. And, they’re not interested in blowing through a survey for a payment, because of the wrong incentive. If the subject matter isn’t appealing, they simply opt-out of it and return to their app.
  • We get faster response times (how’s 750 completed 10Q surveys in an hour sound?)
  • We provide a better respondent experience, since respondents  can take a survey at their convenience, in-app, when they feel like it, on a survey designed for mobile devices)

So, there are many survey distribution methods, but only one that can get you access to over 600M random, anonymous respondents who will give you better data and insights on your survey topic.