Last time I checked my Facebook account (approximately 4 minutes ago) I discovered a SHOCKING pattern – all my friends/peers/relatives are either holidaying in Bangkok, buying a flashy sedan (read Honda City) or pasting plagiarized motivational quotes on their walls like a maniac. After 5 minutes scrolling down all the updates I just had one feeling – SADNESS – for myself! It seems that everyone is doing something really important in their lives except me.
But wait a minute – it does not seems right – I am an optimistic person but for sure the world is not such a happy place as being projected to me. Suddenly I realized they all are BS!! and at that very moment I received the message from the angels – “all respondents are big fat liars!!” who just project an acceptable opinion.
Ok I might have exaggerated a bit on the angels part but I am sure you will agree with me here that survey responses are mostly farce.
Why is it that I don’t receive Facebook messages like “Oh God my Boss again insulted me in front of the whole staff” or “Shit my wife is cheating on me”. The answer is simple – ‘we humans tend to be coherent with the acceptable norms of the society’ – any action that results in being ostracized or ridiculed will be best avoided.
There are times when I just want to stand up and scream at the top of my voice that Pepsi is just a stupid sweet carbonated drink which only a lunatic will pay for to get diabetes in the long run – but no I will never express that so explicitly - cause maybe if so many people love Pepsi – they might be right! or I am just trying to save myself from the wrath of the Pepsi drinkers.
No matter how good the survey design is and how experienced the interviewer – what if I consciously try to project an image of an ideal person. Don’t we do the same in Facebook - we will just remain quiet – lurking in the shadows – till that elusive Bangkok trip materializes and then suddenly we all are hyper active in pasting photos on Facebook. Can I trust a person who has such a low self esteem that he will only open mouth when he is able to share something supposedly positive about himself?
The problem is not just specific to the expression of correct opinions – I am sure there are genuine respondents who provide their opinions but do you REALLY believe that every respondent’s response is just motivated to help brands improvise themselves? In today’s world how many of us actually intend to make things better without personal materialistic motives? I will say very few like Mother Teresa !
Let me explain it a bit more here – every respondent knows that there are screener questions and on the event of not fitting the profile they will be terminated out of the survey – therefore in a way researchers are provoking indirectly the respondents to avoid answers which may terminate them and devoid them of the incentives/gifts. Here a respondent will deliberately try to seek out answers which he perceives to fit the profile that researchers are looking for and not select those responses which are actually true.
So right now we have come across 2 problems – first respondents are scared of sharing opinions which they presume may create a negative impression about them? and secondly when the primary motivation is money I am not sure how authentic the responses are.
Now I am sure all market researchers will cry foul and obviously they should – after all I am raising uncomfortable questions.
But my intention is really simple – if there is an issue we better address it like a true professional.
I am not very confident to take business decisions based on opinions of people who blatantly lie on public platforms like Facebook or who are motivated by the greed for incentives.
PS: If someone says that their respondents are only motivated by an inherent desire to help brands – trust me they are the same people who believe there is a Loch Ness monster!
Akshay Kanyal writes survey research reviews on his popular blog Online MR. He’s an avid blogger, brand consultant and a content marketing expert, helping business owners to craft content that sells.
He provides content marketing advice to start-ups and innovation driven companies. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org