Polling and Social Media Collide with ‘Social Polling’

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What do you think is the best way to track public opinion?

A) Conduct a poll based on a random sample.

B) Create an online poll and post it on Facebook, Twitter, or a blog.

C) Ask a Magic Eight Ball.

Most people would choose A. But in the past year and a half, some startups are going with B. It’s called social polling — soliciting quick feedback from social media followers to find out what they think about hot-button issues.

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Two social polling companies that have launched in the past year — Quipol, founded by Max Yoder, 23, and GoPollGo, founded by Ben Schaechter, 23 — argue that the new ways people are using technology call for new ways of tracking public opinion. A study by Pew’s Global Attitudes Project published in December reported that 50% of Americans are on social networking sites. These startups cater to bloggers, journalists, and companies that are trying to both expand their reach on social networks and get to know their audiences better.

Most social polls pose provocative questions based on current events. GoPollGo has asked people to choose which product they can’t live without the most: Google or Apple. Quipol has asked users whether they would ditch cable in the age of Netflix and Hulu.

“Social media is the most comfortable way for people to get information,” says Schaechter, formerly of TechCrunch, a news website about tech startups. “[The polls] show up in their Twitter feeds or Facebook feeds, bridging the gap and making it simple.”

His Palo Alto company allows users to create polls on its website and see the results materialize in real time, from around the world and among all age groups. ESPN posts a GoPollGo poll to decide what the theme for Wednesday’s SportsNation poll should be.

On Quipol, users can also create polls, which have “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons below the question (think of the “Like” button on Facebook). A “Comments” tab invites participants to qualify their answers and share the poll on Twitter and Facebook.

“As users share their opinions with bloggers and the first degree of their social network, bloggers can reach new people that probably should be part of their core audience, too,” says Yoder, who lives in Indianapolis.

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The most successful Quipol to date is, “Do you still support Susan G. Komen?”, which Forbes posted alongside its article about the breast cancer foundation withdrawing funding from Planned Parenthood. Seventy-eight percent of users answered “no,” and the poll attracted 10,000 responses and 70 comments.

“You’ll get feedback from the people who frequent your site, and that’s all that matters,” Yoder says. “It makes you a better writer and content creator.”

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