Conducting Community Surveys to Learn About App Use

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This month’s Net2 Think Tank is all about surveys and we've spent some time thinking about how we can best use surveys to serve the NetSquared community. Surveys are a great mechanism to use for learning more about a topic as well as to inform organizational programming, improve current services, and/or develop new ways to better support your nonprofit or library.

Sometimes, we, as individuals or organizations, have our own idea of what we think might be valuable to the community. Surveys are a great way to uncover other needs or solutions you may not have known were there or perhaps even possible.

To help make your survey a success, it is important to identify a few key areas. Perhaps the most important area is identify your primary focus. What do you hope to achieve or what question will you answer through querying your community with a survey?

NetSquared Community Survey: Using Applications

Alicja and I are currently putting this principle into practice by building a survey to address a question of use and engaging with the NetSquared local community regarding their use of applications. We want to know how does the NetSquared community use applications. Mobile applications, toolbar extensions, plug-ins, etc.

Once you have identified the primary question and survey's purpose then you can move onto your sub questions that look into your focus with even greater depth. These questions are more targeted and look to gather more detail about the topic in question.

For example the sub questions we are using include:

  • Do you use apps at your organization? Yes or no
  • If yes, you use apps, then how do you use them?
  • For example do you use them to engage with patrons, to do your daily work, or to allow patrons to use in your services
  • Is there a specific kind of application you wish existed or that your organization had access to? Describe this application.

We opted to keep the survey short and sweet to encourage greater participation. The last question will be an optional one that if answered will provide great value, but will also require a bit more time and thought on the part of the contributor. We made it optional, because we don't want this to deter people from completing the survey. You can pose a mixture of question types to get at a variety of information and to offer a question mix that is appealing to the community you are surveying.

The tools we currently use for survey execution are SurveyMonkey and FluidSurveys. Once the survey has been created, then the other part to consider is survey distribution. How are you going to distribute your survey in a way that will help maximize completion? Use your current channels that are popular or used frequently by your community and intended audience.

For us, these channels include:

Another good idea is to make an announcement at any in-person meet-ups or events you maybe organizing or attending to increase survey completion. Nothing beats adding word-of-mouth to the distribution mix.

Key take-aways:

  • Identify your purpose or question
  • Identify a short list of sub questions
  • Keep your questions applicable but also simple
  • Keep your survey short to boost completion
  • Offer room for more detailed insights and answers

Here is the final version of the, App It Up, survey that we created:

We would love you to take a few minutes to see how we put the above into practice and to get your insight into the use of application among your NetSquared Local group or organization. Also, we are currently soliciting feedback, best practices, and other informational tips about surveys from the community for the August Net2 Think Tank.