Three reasons polling enhances the social news cycle

Three reasons polling enhances the social news cycle

Publications are using polls, now more than ever, to engage readers.

Today’s news cycle is real-time, distributed over multiple channels and relies on social media to collect and break news. At times, it’s driven as much by trending topics on Twitter as it is IRL events. Delivering the right story to readers at the right time is hard. Doing it in a way that encourages and captures their conversations is even harder.

Polls can help.

Opinion polling has been around forever because it naturally engages people and it produces results. They get to voice their opinion on topics they feel strongly about in a group. This desire is hard-wired human nature. Given the opportunity to do it at Internet speed, it’s almost irresistible.

Polls like Gallup and Nielsen's are great for finding out what presidential candidate had the edge two weeks ago or which soap opera topped ratings last month, but they’re archaic when paired with today’s social distribution of news. Today’s polling tools are digital and drive engagement in real-time.

Here are three reasons why digital publications should use social polling to effectively engage their readership.

1. Polls create real-time engagement. When you ask the right question at the right time, polls spread fast. During the Polar Vortex this past January, The Weather Channel struck a social nerve with this question: Should schools be closed due to the extreme cold? Yes or No?

They created a poll and shared it on Facebook the same morning schools were being shut down and everyone was online talking about it. Over 20,000 likes and shares and 2 million Facebook impressions later, The Weather Channel found out that most people thought sending kids and parents outside to get frostbite was a bad idea.

The poll pulled in over 20,000 votes, but the real reward was the immediate social engagement the question created.

2. Polls spark conversations where your readers are. Modern polls have to work where your readers are. They need to integrate with your website or blog, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and be mobile-friendly all at the same time. This way you can engage people on all channels and collect their opinions in one place, while driving a conversation.

Engadget did this recently, embedding a poll on an article that stated their support for Amazon’s stance on not accepting Bitcoin. The story voiced their opinion but also gave their audience the chance to discuss the news with their own social networks, creating a larger discussion around the topic.

Engadget wants to know: Should Amazon adopt Bitcoin? (poll at the end of the article)

— Bitcoin Reddit (@RedditBTC) April 18, 2014

3. Polls teach you about your audience. The Wall Street Journal recently extended the life of a successful story with a poll on how many cellphones people use and learned about their audience at the same time.

They created their poll, embedded it in a new article and shared it across their social networks. After over 1,000 votes they confirmed that a significant portion of their business readers had two phones. Not very surprising. What was surprising was the anomalous 2 percent who claim to use 0 cellphones, or the 5 percent of their readers who use 2+ phones.

That 7 percent could easily make for a new and fascinating story about the people who don’t use cell phones in 2014, or who are overexposed to cell phones through their work.

Still not convinced?

Polling gives you the power to measure real-time opinions across multiple channels, spark conversations on social networks and learn new things about your readers. These are vital superpowers in the modern news cycle that is driven by so many channels, devices, networks, and readers.

Plus, they make asking and answering questions fun.


There are dozens of companies out there that power social polling, and they’re all slightly different. I’m obviously partial to, but if it doesn’t work for you let me know and I can help you find something that does.

Porter Haney is the CEO of Wedgies and proud member of the #VegasTech community. You can find him on Twitter at @PorterHaney.

Photo: Poll via Shutterstock

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