How to Conduct a Survey and Learn From Your Fans

take surveySurveys are not just for corporate behemoths trying to increase their bottom line with customer satisfaction stats. Anyone can use a free tool like SurveyMonkey to post a survey on their website, social media, or to send to an email list.

Why are Surveys Useful to Artists, Authors, and Musicians?

You may have noticed people don’t usually offer critical analysis unless you ask them specifically, and even then, people (friends especially) hold back harsher criticisms in order to be polite. The most common feedback you probably hear is, “I loved it” or “I don’t know. Wasn’t my thing.” This kind of feedback does very little to help you grow as an artist.

This is why surveys can be super useful. People are more likely to “tell it like it is” when filling out a survey because they understand you’re looking for unbiased feedback.

As artists, we want to constantly improve. We can do this by learning what works and what doesn’t, according to our fans. Sure, you can say, “I just follow my gut. I don’t follow anybody’s rules.” That’s great, but there is still loads of value in gaining perspective from other people. This doesn’t mean you have to act on everything people say. More often than not, people’s opinions may simply reinforce what you already know. Though I would argue that the most important insights will come when you discover something you don’t know. You might be surprised to discover that most people dislike it when you sing in falsetto or that you use the word “inexplicable” too many times in your writing.

To Get at These Kinds of Truths in a Survey, I Recommend Two things:

1. Ask yourself what your basic assumptions about the value your art are. For instance: “I am really good at this. My fans like this. This song/story is a fan-favorite because of this. etc. Make sure you include questions that relate to these basic positive assumptions. Ask your fans what they want more of.

2. Then do the opposite. Think about your weaknesses. What are you unsure about? What aspects of your art do you doubt? Compose questions that will allow your fans to offer their own opinions. Ask them what they would like to see less of in future projects.

If your email list is under a few hundred names, don’t be afraid to ask some long-form questions that allow your fans to write in their opinions. (SurveyMonkey gives you a wide variety of question and answer formats.) Just don’t overdo it with the essay answers, or people won’t get through the whole survey.

And Don’t Forget an Incentive!

In order to ensure that people participate in your survey, make sure you offer them something in return. You could offer everyone who fills out the form a free download, or you could hold a drawing and offer a few key prizes to a few people at random. Make sure that you advertise this benefit to your fans clearly: “Enter to win a free this by filling out my survey.”

Tip: If you’re going to give away prizes, don’t forget to ask for their contact info.

Do you have any experience with running a survey through your website? Tell us about it in the comments below.