5 Survey Distribution Methods To Get More Respondents [Updated]

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New survey distribution methods are stepping up to replace “legacy” methods, largely due to changes in technology and consumer behavior that allow for faster, better results and more opportunities to reach your target audience. Market research professionals are already taking advantage of these new methods, and you can too! Read on to see how to distribute your survey like a pro.

“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 put effort into writing great survey questions and selected the perfect survey methodology, so your survey is almost ready to go.

Only one problem—how do you choose the survey distribution method that lets you reach the right respondents?

In order to get the data you want, you’ll need to ensure that you’re reaching the right target audience and gaining enough responses to tell you what you need to know.

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

At this point, you need to select the best way to 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.

But changing times call for changing methods. The old ways of conducting surveys, while still 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 for qualitative research. 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 ad creation to get people to click the ad, not to mention needing 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, and one of the most common legacy methodologies in use today.

    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-monetarily. This eliminates the issues of professional panelists.

    This is how Pollfish distributes your survey to respondents.

    By partnering with mobile app publishers, Pollfish has created a network of over 780 million potential survey respondents. Using information provided to app publishers, Pollfish allows you to create, target and deploy mobile-optimized surveys to consumers 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 780M respondents create a truly representative sample of people not simply rushing through to move on to their next payday, and the savings are passed on to you.

    In order to further prevent issues with false completes, Pollfish developed its own 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 crowdsourcing 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 for the community aspect, not to take a survey—you eliminate the paid-survey-participant problem.

    Facebook collects so much demographic data that it is relatively inexpensive to target down to very small sample sizes. However, this method is not without flaws.

    Because Facebook’s algorithm is built to show your ad to the person most likely to click on it, your sample is not truly randomized. You are most likely to get respondents who already have a great deal of familiarity with the topic your survey covers based on past Facebook engagement, so they are likely to be biased rather than an impartial source of data.

  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, sharing your survey on your website or blog could be a good option.

    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 are able to 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.

    However, be aware of GDPR. If you buy a list to send your survey to, you may be in violation of Europe’s privacy laws.


How Is Pollfish Different?

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

  • We have a 100% opt-in audience network, we don’t recruit or pay panelists
  • We distribute surveys through our vetted app-publishing partnerships, not through paid channels like Social Media, Google Ads, or Affiliates
  • We don’t force people to answer a survey to unlock premium content
  • We use alternative incentives to compensate respondents, rather than pay per survey or referral

We have over 780M consumers in our Audience Survey Network that we access via mobile invitation.

We do this by directly partnering with trusted app-publishers, who are able 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 into a random drawing

Respondents must be in-app and matching the targeting criteria set for your survey to be invited to participate, ensuring the right audience and rapid response times you need.

In addition, we use AI-driven fraud prevention technology to detect and remove responses that are suspicious or low-quality, ensuring that you’re only paying for responses that help your research project get the data you need.

You set the demographic criteria to reach your desired target audience on the platform, create your questionnaire, and we handle the rest.

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. Because they’re not on a payroll, they’re less likely to rush through a survey to obtain the reward. If the subject matter isn’t appealing, they simply opt-out of it and return to their app.
  • We get faster response times, oftentimes in only a few hours, due to the large number of potential respondents engaged at any time.
  • We provide a better respondent experience, since respondents can take a survey at their convenience, and are engaging with a survey designed for mobile devices that improves response rates and minimizes confusion.

There are many survey distribution methods, but only one that can give you access to over 780M consumers for rapid, better data and insights on your survey topic.