The Textizen Blog

JAN 15 2015

3 Tips for Writing a Great Survey Hook

Survey hook header

Welcome to the first post in a new series about improving your survey design for more effective outreach! Today, we’re going to give three tips on how to make the first question of your survey – the “hook” – as strong as possible to draw more responses.

Tip #1: Be direct

With a typical text-in survey prompt (on a poster, flyer, etc.), you have just a few seconds to grab people’s attention and compel them to text a reply. Your visual design is crucial for this, but it’s equally important that your prompt be clear and concise.

  • Weak hook: “The City is considering a new business development initiative for this area. Text YES to participate in a survey about this effort.”
  • Strong hook: “What business would you like to see here?”

Tip #2: Make it personal

A text survey prompt is an invitation for one-on-one dialogue. If your question is personally relevant, people will want to offer their input. A quick way to test this: does your prompt involve the word “you?”

Also, people tend to use texting for personal communication, so friendly and informal language will feel more natural than academic jargon.

  • Weak hook: “Franklin County Public Schools are evaluating new budget allocation options for the upcoming fiscal year. Where is funding needed most?”
  • Strong hook: “If you had $1 million to improve your school, how would you spend it?”

Plan Salt Lake

Tip #3: Convey potential impact

Make it clear that respondents’ input will have real impact. If you are gathering feedback for civic planning, convey that responses will drive decision-making. If you are recruiting people for a community group or service (e.g. farm share program, home repair assistance) make sure to give a sense of the benefits.

  • Weak hook: “The Community Housing Initiative offers homeowners’ assistance with home repair. Are you interested?”
  • Strong hook: “Do you need help with home repair?”

Tying it all together

The great thing about these three tips is, once you get comfortable with one of the principles, the others tend to follow naturally. All of the “strong hook” examples above exemplify all three: they are direct, they are personal, and they all suggest what result will come from participating.

If you find yourself struggling to incorporate these three principles into your hook question, it may help to step back and consider your end goal. For instance, being direct is good, but being too specific can cause you to lose personal relevance.

Transfort’s goal was to gather feedback about the contentious issue of bikes on buses – but they wanted to make sure they got feedback from everyone, not just the most passionate people on either side. Their survey prompt was direct and personal, but also broad: “Hey, Fort Collins, how is MAX treating you?” This made the survey applicable to all bus riders, rather than just those who felt strongly about bikes on buses.

Combined with strong outreach and visual materials, a well-crafted survey hook can lead to great response rates and loads of useful feedback. Hopefully these tips help you in planning your text-in campaigns! As always, the Textizen team is happy to help you refine your ideas and turn them into plans for action – just get in touch:

One Region Forward bus stop poster

Image via Buffalo-Niagara's One Region Forward.