How to distribute a survey

Surveys offer your business the opportunity to gather valuable information from your target audience. You can use surveys to test out ideas for a new product, identify an unmet need, evaluate the effectiveness of your newest marketing campaign, evaluate the customer experience your business offers, and more.

To successfully gather information with a survey, you first need to create one. And once you’ve done that, you need to distribute it effectively.

How to distribute a survey

It’s easy to become highly focused on creating and designing surveys. After all, those elements play a key role not only in how easily people can complete the survey, but also in the accuracy and quality of the information you gather.

But the distribution method also plays an important role in the survey’s success. It’s worth putting just as much focus and planning into distribution as you do into the survey’s initial creation.

What is survey distribution?

Survey distribution refers to the process you use to deliver a survey to the respondents you want to complete it. There are two main forms of survey distribution: online and offline.

Offline surveys, also called paper surveys, include surveys you might receive in the mail. Some companies also send representatives door to door to get the surveys in the right hands. These are time-consuming and expensive methods, so organizations use offline surveys less frequently.

In contrast, the popularity of online surveys is growing rapidly. You can distribute surveys through many different online channels, including email, social media, popup forms after a customer completes a purchase, and more. Online surveys are efficient, easy to distribute, and much more affordable, making them a practical option for large corporations as well as small businesses and startups.

Why is it important to distribute surveys the right way?

The distribution method that you choose can affect the response rate to your survey as well as the quality of the data that you gather. For example, if your audience is primarily active on a certain social media channel, then distributing the survey on that social media channel can help you connect with your target audience better. That way, you’re more likely to get the survey responses you want.

How do you choose the right distribution method for your survey?

When choosing your distribution method, it’s important to consider all the potential distribution methods as well as the pros and cons that come with each. Next, think about the audience that you’re trying to reach with the survey and consider where you’ll most likely be able to connect with that audience.

You’ll also want to think about the type of survey that the audience is most comfortable completing. Some audiences will strongly prefer a digital survey, while others may prefer offline surveys, especially if they have minimal technical skills or don’t use social media. Weighing all of those factors can help you determine which distribution method is most likely to be effective for the largest portion of your target audience.

What are some ways to distribute online surveys?

If you’re creating an online survey, you can choose to distribute it in many different ways. Most of these distribution methods are low- or no-cost options, and many of them let you target specific audiences.


You can include a link to your survey within the emails you send out to your email contacts. If you segment your email lists, then you can send surveys to highly targeted groups of recipients, such as subscribers who haven’t made a purchase yet, your most loyal customers, and more.

Emailed surveys can allow you to quickly reach large groups of people. You may face the challenge of getting your recipients to open the emails, though, so you may need to experiment with different email subject lines and strategies to ensure recipients read your emails.

Social media

When you distribute your survey on social media, you can reach current followers and even new audiences on various platforms. You can share your survey on your different social media profiles and ask your followers to take the time to complete it.

If you use promoted posts or social media ads, you can target your survey to reach social media users who don’t yet follow your page. This option gives you increased control over who sees the survey, and you may even be able to build your business’s social media following at the same time.

Social media distribution can be helpful because it gives you flexibility to target specific segments or audiences. You can choose audiences based on factors like location, age, interests, and more. Social media distribution is also fast, and you can expect to see responses quickly.

However, you’ll need to consider the fact that your post’s reach will be limited, so your entire audience won’t necessarily see the survey. And if you’re using paid social media options, those costs can quickly add up.

QR codes

QR codes, which are like more complex barcodes, make it easy for your audience to quickly access your digital survey. Your QR code works as a direct link to your survey, so your audience doesn’t have to worry about navigating to a certain page on your website to complete the survey.

You can display a QR code on your website, but you can also display it on print materials, such as posters, flyers, product packaging, and more. Putting a QR code on printed materials makes it easy and fast for in-person customers to access the survey via their smartphones.

One drawback to QR codes is that they do require your users to have a smartphone. They may not be the best option if you’re trying to reach an audience that doesn’t have or use smartphones. Also keep in mind that if you’re asking people to respond to a survey while they’re in the middle of something else — like walking by one of your flyers or purchasing one of your products — you’ll need to keep the survey very short to increase the chances that they’ll take the time to complete it.

Websites or blog posts

Consider embedding your survey into your website or adding it into your blog posts. Both methods make the survey easily accessible to your audience, and you can leave the survey up for as long as you want.

Adding your survey to your website or blog post can help you connect with your existing audience easily, particularly customers who are likely to visit your site or read your blog. While this strategy is ideal for connecting with that existing audience, your website or blog post may not give you the reach you want if you’re trying to connect with respondents who aren’t your current customers.

Since website visitors or blog readers are more likely to have some extra time, you can likely share a longer survey on your blog or website than you could with other methods, like QR code distribution.

SMS messaging

SMS messaging allows you to send a text survey directly to your audience’s phones. You can conduct different survey types, including multiple-choice polls and text-to-vote surveys, and texting often gives you instant results. Alternatively, you can text a link to your survey, which gives you more survey design options. SMS messaging tends to have a high response rate, so it can be a good choice if you want to quickly gather a high volume of responses.

SMS messaging is a paid service, but at just a few cents per text, it’s largely affordable. You’ll need to take the time to build a list of contacts who have opted in to receive texts from your company, so SMS messaging can take some time to implement.

What are some ways to distribute offline surveys?

While distributing offline surveys requires more staff time and, often, more of a financial investment, there are still benefits to using offline survey distribution methods.

Over the phone

If you have a shorter survey, phone distribution can be a practical choice. Connecting with your audience via the phone gives them a chance to provide personalized feedback to some of your questions, and it can help you reach people who aren’t especially active on digital outlets.

Phone surveys can be expensive and time-consuming to administer, though. It can also be challenging to quickly build your audience’s trust in you and to encourage them to take the time to complete the survey.

In person

In-person surveys give you the chance to connect with a wide audience. When engaging with your audience in person, you can create a personal connection that encourages them to take the time to complete the survey.

In-person surveying methods can be expensive, and they require more staff to conduct the surveys. This survey method is time-consuming, but it can also help you to reach a broad audience.

How can you create a survey for your intended distribution method?

Once you choose the distribution method or methods you want to use, you’ll want to make sure that you can deliver your survey using those particular methods. Choosing a versatile online form builder like Jotform can give you that capability.

With Jotform, you can distribute your surveys in many different ways, including embedding them into your website or a blog post, sharing them via a link on social media or in email, sharing them through a QR code or your own custom app, and more.

Jotform gives you plenty of potential distribution choices, so it can be an ideal solution even if you want to distribute different surveys in different ways. You might even test out different distribution methods and compare the results you receive from each to see which method is best for future surveys.

While it’s important to carefully design your surveys, it’s equally important to put thought into the right distribution option. Combining a well-designed survey with the right distribution method can deliver the results you need to propel your business forward.

A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked for TV, newspapers, radio, and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for, Fast Company, NBC, Entrepreneur, USA Today, and Business Insider, among others.

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