Monday, May 11, 2009

LinkedIn Polls--Uses and Abuses

People have been sending me polls lately. When I see them on news sites, I often don’t answer them. When someone goes to the trouble of emailing it to me, I often do. That said, I can’t remember who sent me a LinkedIn poll about the virtues of advertising during a recession but I answered it, checked to my answer against others (a minority position, I’m sorry to say), then started thinking.
I remembered answering one or two when CNBC partnered with LinkedIn last fall to do what I thought was going to be a daily business poll. CNBC is still doing them, but not regularly. I have the TV set to CNBC several hours most weekdays, and I haven’t heard about them in quite awhile. I don’t see anything on their home page. Do they publicize the polls in daily news alerts? At all? I don’t know.

The Poll app seems to be first cousin to the LinkedIn Answers app (I think you have to be signed in to see both). Either one can be put on your LinkedIn profile page. The Answers page is personalized to interests of the user, presumably issues listed on the user profile. Note that a question about online promotion/advertising by John Batelle is the Featured question on my page when I checked it (clearly they know it’s me; the profile picture is a nice touch to point out that you are identified, non anonymous).
Note that if you want to set up a polling option you can send it to your own network free. If you want to use LinkedIn’s targeting options, you have to upgrade to Premium membership. I didn’t try it because a question to the lovely people in my network “just to see if the app worked” seemed quite spammy to me.

Is this more than just fun and games, social media style? Maybe.

If you have a serious question that matches the expertise of people in your network, it’s worth asking. I would be more inclined to use the Answers app than the Poll for a serious question, so respondents could explain their reasoning.

Can the polls simply be used as an engagement device—clearly the intention of people who have emailed them to me recently? Maybe, but I don’t think you ought to push that unless you have a consistent stream of REALLY INTERESTING questions, and that’s hard. The email I received from a news site asked me to answer the daily poll and to suggest questions. Engaging, but also a suggestion that they don’t have a bright idea for every day! I also ran across a blogger who was annoyed by getting the same poll two days in a row, although my guess is that it was an opt-in. Good point anyway. The rule should be “engage, not annoy.” Where do you draw the line for your own target audience?

I guess I come down on the side of this being a better technique for a specific answer to a professional question than as an ongoing engagement device, whatever your target audience. I have no issue with polls on your page, website, whatever—anywhere they are not intrusive. When you email them to people, they become intrusive, and caution is urged!


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