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Best Practices for Engaging Your Readers With Opinary Polls

We’re obsessed with asking questions at Opinary. It’s our chief interaction with our 30 million monthly users. It’s also the way we make sure we’re constantly improving both our product and our processes.

Last year, we performed an analysis of 1000 polls that garnered 4 million votes to understand how to build better Opinary polls.

To ensure your readers are engaged as possible, we’d like to share a few tips based on those findings on how to optimise your Opinary polls. There are some exceptions to these suggestions, but these best practices are recommended in the majority of cases.

1. Keep your answers short, snappy, and simple (but still interesting)

We recommend keeping the answers to your polls down to less than three lines (which can be checked in a preview), but they should always be more than a simple “yes” or “no” to give a little flavour.

 

2. Look to the future

According to our studies, the most engaging questions are those which pose a question about the future — for example, “Do you intend to buy the new iPhone?”, “Should Scotland have a second independence referendum?”, “Would you support repealing the Affordable Care Act?”. So, when phrasing your questions, it’s a good idea to ask yourself if there is any way you can alter it to be more focused on the future rather than the past or present.

 
“Will Donald Trump be a good president?” rather than “Are you glad Trump got elected?”

3. Make questions accessible

If a question is heavily convoluted, too long, too complicated, or full of confusing words, people are less likely to vote. Make your questions more appealing by avoiding boring words, keeping things snappy, and being clear. You want your readers to already have an idea of their answer as soon as they finish reading the question — they shouldn’t need to think about what the question means before they start to formulate an answer.

4. Don’t overdo it on the opinion bubbles

A key part of our tool is helping readers to see opinions from outside of their usual zone of influence that can be propagated by social media, but if the speedometer polls are too cluttered, it can reduce the engagement rate. Aim for a maximum of 3 or 4 bubbles per poll unless the debate is heavily contested with multiple varied viewpoints.

 

5. Embed as much as you can (and then some)

As you embed more polls, readers will become more used to seeing them, and therefore more likely to interact. It’s a good idea to integrate as many polls as possible across different articles, even if it’s the same poll multiple times — one article about a certain topic might be viewed by an entirely different group of readers than another post bearing the same poll.

6. Formatting the opinions

The aforementioned opinion bubbles are best used to denote where a celebrity, analyst, or person of importance stands on the debate. Based on the strength of their stance, they can be placed in a specific place along the opinion spectrum.

This is the best way to format the text within the opinion bubbles:

 

Give some background and provide a link to the context of the quote, then include a full quote. Making sure all of the opinion bubble texts are formatted similarly is always helpful.

Have other questions about Opinary polls?

Feel free to reach out to me at ryan@opinary.com!

A New Newsroom Metric: Reading People’s Minds

Okay, sort of. Newsrooms already try to read people’s minds but don’t have objective metrics for it. From the start of the editorial process (what does “the audience” want/need?) to the analysis of the results (why don’t they scroll to the bottom?), it’s a guessing game as to what users are thinking. But there’s a new way to bridge that gap and measure audience opinion like never before. I’ll get to that below. First, let me tell you about monkeys.

Your Audience Is Human

Believe it or not, I know a thing or two about monkeys.

I spent August of 2013 studying primatology in Kenya. One of the key debates in primatology is around anthropomorphization, or ascribing human attributes to the animal you’re studying. One side of the debate goes so far as to say that a primate in the wild is not “scratching its armpit” as that might imply it has an itch there. Instead, a primatologist might say a primate is “making a scratching motion against its underarm.”

In general, this makes sense. Primatologists cannot ask the monkeys if they have itchy armpits so they don’t want to make assumptions that they do.

Luckily, in journalism, your audience is human. You don’t have to guess if they have itchy armpits. You can just ask them if they have itchy armpits.

The more readers you ask, the more a subjective interpretation can transform into an objective metric: what your community-at-large is thinking.

Measuring Opinions En Masse and Over Time

This is a hypothetical armpit itchiness trend graph shows a steady level of itchy armpits across half of the audience while depicting an increase of readers with resolutely unitchy armpits.

The method Opinary has identified to engage normally passive users creates an opportunity to tune into what a newsroom’s audience is thinking and debating like never before. Above, you see how we would visualize opinion trends over time on the question of armpit itchiness. Here are a few real world examples:

(Date formats in DD/MM/YYYY)

Here’s how Opinary visualizes trending audience polarization:

(Pardon the German. U.S. publisher dashboards are in English, obviously.)

Here how Opinary visualizes trending audience agreement:

(Again, pardon the German. U.S. publisher dashboards are in English, obviously.)

What Does This Mean For A Newsroom

With ways to engage readers in conversation in new ways, Opinary has found the secret sauce to get users to share their opinions and enter into a deeper exchange with the newsroom. These users are human. Newsroom rely on these humans. This is a platform for newsrooms to serve their communities better by understanding what they think and how content influences their lives.

The questions that shape a newsroom’s mission aren’t just for the newsroom anymore. If your audience is not a part of your mission, then you’re behind the curve. Use Opinary to ask and listen like never before.

Reach me at simon@opinary.com.