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July 3, 2008

A New Way to Survey

I've been asked by the church I attend to be director of Young Adult Ministries. I'm not sure how I feel about that, so I suggested that I'd prefer if I could use this capacity to generate data on who young adults are, their interests, values, and concerns; this data I would then hand over to a team of young adults that I'd help to create new and pertinent programming.

Wikipedia says that a young adult is between ages 18 and 40. If you know anything about that age group you will know that:
  • They are least likely to be at church.
  • They are least likely to be at church on time.
  • They are least likely to be at church long after the service is done.
So how do you poll the disillusioned, the disinterested and the easily dispersed? With a novel and portable interview system.
I knew that if I narrowed my survey down to about a dozen questions, it could still take 30 minutes per person. I'd be lucky to get 6 people in the 6 weeks I was given to work on the project.  I needed a way to hit many people at once, in a way that would catch them no matter where they were.

Text Messaging.

I don't know one person at my church, high school age or older, that doesn't have a mobile phone (this knowledge is supported by the 2-3 phones that tend to go off every service). What if I just had them send me their answers via SMS? Enter PollEverywhere.

Poll Everywhere | Simple Text Message Voting
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

PollEverywhere allows you to receive SMS "votes," which it automagically tabulates in cool little  graphs like the one above. It's just like American Idol! It also allows for "free text" responses, which allow for personal answers rather than choosing from a pre-selected set.

The novelty and portability qualifications were met, but I still needed a way to get the questions to them--without manually sending SMS to individual mobiles. Luckily, a link showed up at the bottom of my SMS when testing the poll--one for www.41411.com, the same number to which I had cast my vote.

The address sends directs you to TextMarks, a web app which PollEverywhere uses. It allows you to create SMS mailing lists, for lack of a better description. Pick a name, tell your friends to text that name to 41411 and they'll be subscribed to your group.

TextMarks - Edit TextMark: 'YOUNGADULT' - Make information accessible from any cell phone - via text messages. Coordinate Activities. Express Yourself!
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

You can send message out to them (exactly what I needed!) and also allow them to reply messages back to you or to the group as a whole. This could be good for coordinating an event or a ton of other group activities (espionage, anyone?).

All said, it seems to work out pretty well. As long as you generate a decent sample size, this could be a free, simple and convenient option for creating your own SMS based survey.

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