What are Paid Surveys?

Keith Koons

A paid survey is a method of market research that makes use of incentives to encourage user participation. These incentives range from reward points that can be redeemed for gifts to small amounts of cash. Paid surveys, when conducted properly, are incredibly accurate indicators of market trends and public opinion, so numerous big-brand companies use paid surveys to fine-tune their marketing strategies. Most paid surveys are conducted online, harnessing the distributive power of the Internet. Unfortunately, scam artists posing at legitimate conductors of paid surveys have done their bit to tarnish the legitimacy of online surveys.

Paid surveys provide an incentive as a way of encouraging participation.
Paid surveys provide an incentive as a way of encouraging participation.

Before the widespread use of the Internet, surveying the general populace took weeks if not months to accomplish. Armies of surveyors would have to scour the sample population, attempting to convince generally unwilling people to participate. As more and more people started using the Internet, however, market research firms realized that millions of potential respondents could be reached with a fraction of the logistics and manpower that a traditional survey would require. They also found that by rewarding participants with small incentives, they could build dedicated and reliable online focus groups. The Internet revolutionized the way market research firms surveyed the world.

The main intention of a paid survey is to collect quantitative information about a population’s economic or personal habits. Data is collected and analyzed in order to arrive at general conclusions about the surveyed population’s behavior and composition. While some of these surveys are just broad interpretations of how a certain population behaves, most of them provide invaluable insight into the public psyche that can be used to develop marketing strategies. Recognizing the power of paid surveys, many large corporations regularly commission surveys to analyze spending habits, current trends, and public opinion. Results of these surveys are used to develop products and campaigns that are in tune with what the public wants and needs.

Unfortunately, fraudulent firms have found ways to harness the popularity of online surveys to run unprincipled scams. These fraudulent postings promise incentives, often much higher than the incentives that legitimate paid surveys offer, but either ultimately fail to pay out or demand that the participant spend money. As a result, paid surveys, especially those conducted online, have not completely eliminated the need for traditional surveying techniques, and there are several prominent firms in existence today that conduct manual surveys. For corporate market research, the convenience and affordability of paid surveys trump its inherent weaknesses in most cases.

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