Schottler Consulting Social and Market Research Knowledge Centre

Tools and tips for conducting online surveys in social and market research

Free and low cost online survey tools now present a means of collecting data efficiently from certain subjects or populations. However, conducting an online survey is both an art and a science and can be much more successful if undertaken using a well-designed approach. 

Tips for success


The following tips are useful in conducting online surveys in social and market research: 

  • While Survey Monkey is possibly one of the most well-known online survey tools, professional researchers will generally use other tools and software that are much more powerful.

    While such tools may not be affordable for all organisations, one useful tool that is available - Surveygizmo - has a relatively power survey tool available at a reasonable subscription cost for the features offered 

  • When designing an online survey, design it on paper first and follow the recommendations we suggest for research design. This should include first developing a measurement framework before constructing survey items

  • Where possible, make sure that online surveys are no more than 10 minutes in length. This is because rates of participation will decrease with longer surveys

  • It is often useful to send a 'warmer email' to respondents around 5-7 days prior to sending the survey invitation. This will help ensure that subjects are cued into looking out for the research

  • Make sure that emails inviting people to participate in the survey are SHORT. They should also clearly describe the benefits of participation to encourage a strong 'call to action' to participate in the survey

  • Where possible, make sure the survey invitation link is in the very top of the email. Potential respondents will be unlikely to read a long email to find the link and this will decrease the likelihood of participation

  • Thoroughly test the program and check the data (enter about 50 cases) - Don't just rely on checks to the program, as it is always possible that data can be missing. When entering simulation or dummy data for checking, make sure you first identify the major routes in the survey and ensure that dummy data covers all the routes 

  • Do a soft launch first - Sending a small number of surveys allows both the email and the data to be checked before the main launch. It also allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of your invitation email. View it like a marketing campaign - if there is limited evidence that the survey is being opened, you may need to change your email

  • Test your survey in both desktop and mobile device mode to make sure that everything is visible. Remember that a lot of people are not relying on mobile devices for their internet!

  • Once the program and the soft launch data is thoroughly checked, and any invitation emails have been fined tuned through the soft launch, you're ready to launch the main survey!