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Facebook Polls: quick, easy, but simplistic market research

Facebook Polls launched on Friday night to much fanfare on the web.  TechCrunch called it a market research paradise, and various others commented in a similar positive vein. 

A Facebook Poll costs $5 to set up, and then between $.10 and $1.00 per response, depending on how quickly you want the results.  For that, you get to ask one question, up to 60 words in length. You can choose to finish the poll at 50, 100, or more responses, depending on how accurate you need the results to be.  You can also target the poll to specific interest groups, demographics, and geographies.  When purchased, the poll invitation shows up in users news feed depending on the target demographic selected.

I took it for a test drive this morning.  As you know, I'm interested in the potential of Facebook for business users, and Friday created a Facebook group (requires a valid Facebook membership to participate) to discuss this topic .  So, I constructed two quick polls around this topic. 

First I asked people to categorize their Facebook friends as business, personal, or both. I paid $.25/response, and asked for 50 responses, which Facebook estimated would take 4 hours.  In actual fact, the 50 responses were collected in about 90 minutes.

Facebook presents the results as a series of graphs, or if you wish, you may download the raw data as a CSV file. 

facebook friends 1

The results suggest that most Facebook users view Facebook as a personal tool only, and that nobody uses it exclusively for business.  Still, 40% of people have some number of business associates amongst their Facebook friends.

Facebook also gives you the ability to break this data down further by demographic.  Admittedly, the segmented results should be taken rather lightly given the size of the sample, but they still pointed to some interesting possibilities.

facebook friends 2  

Among younger people, and among women, Facebook is predominantly a personal tool.  Men are more likely to use it for personal and business, and  greater than 60% of people age 25 or older are likely to have business contacts included in their Facebook friends.

I did a little more digging, and ran a second poll asking people to estimate how many business related Facebook friends they had.  This time I around, based on the results of the previous poll, I only targeted Facebook users in the 25 to 34 years age bracket.  I would have targeted all users older than 25 but Facebook Polls doesn't permit you to choose multiple age brackets.

Again, the poll completed in well under the 4 hours estimated, and this time (at 1:15 minutes) faster than the first poll.  More middle aged people use Facebook on Sunday mornings?  Perhaps a topic for another Facebook poll…

work related 1

The results are a little hard to read, because Facebook uses some kind of strange ordering (20 comes before 10, and 30 after 50…).  However, they're unmistakeable.  The vast majority of Facebook users count only a small number of business contacts among their friends.  2/3 say fewer than 10% of their Facebook friends are work related, although 20% say that 40% or more of their Facebook friends are work related.  It appears that users are quite polarized, and either view Facebook as a potential business tool, or not.

Again, digging deeper reveals more insight.  Men and women clearly see Facebook differently, with men much more likely to include business contacts among their Facebook friends.

work related 2

Although Facebook Polls shows a lot of promise, it's a long way from the market researchers paradise that TechCrunch's Mike Arrington describes.  As a market research tool, it's primitive.  It needs:

  • Finer demographic targeting capabilities.
  • The ability to deliver a multi-part questionnaire.  One 60 word question is simply not enough. 
  • The ability to handle multiple response questions, and open ended questions.
  • Better analytical tools including distributions, and cluster analyses.

For quick polls it's not bad.  However, to do any detailed market research, better results could likely be had by building a SurveyMonkey questionnaire, and assembling a panel of respondents using the Facebook share feature.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • John Kirriemuirq June 3, 2007, 12:01 pm

    Facebook has really taken off in the UK in the last few weeks alone. Many people here are, I think, playing "catch-up" and experimenting with it a lot. Other European countries, such as Norway, seem to have taken to it much quicker.

  • Alec June 3, 2007, 3:28 pm

    Hey John, thanks for the comment. I was just cruising through your blog and saw the market data slides you've collected from Facebook. Useful stuff!

  • Chris Claydon June 29, 2007, 5:33 pm

    There is now a new application on facebook which allows you to create questionnaires, surveys, polls, votes and petitions, answer them and invite your friends to answer them. You can display your answers to a questionnaire on your profile so people can get to know you better. We just launched it a couple of days ago, the questionnaires are up and running, polls votes and petitions will arrive in the next couple of days. In a few weeks time we hope to add commercial surveys where users get paid via paypal to answer surveys, but currently its all completely free, and you can view everyones answers to your surveys! We are adding more features all the time – it will soon be very powerful indeed. We are also willing to consider adding any feture you require on request!

    Check it out: http://apps.facebook.com/questionnaires

    Best wishes,

  • Alec June 29, 2007, 6:16 pm

    Thanks for the tip, Chris. I'll check it out.

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