Survey Segmentation: More Than Just Demographics
I like to take part in surveys. I think it’s only fair, given that we ask people to do them for the projects that we work on. And when I do, I find it hard to avoid thinking about how I would rephrase certain questions, or how I might use the answers to dig down into other people’s responses.
There’s a whole range of different research techniques we use to find out about our audiences, but surveys are one of the best for getting a high volume of data to back up the qualitative, anecdotal stuff we find through some of the other methods.
We might hear from interviews or focus groups that people like using social media as a way to get their daily news, for example – but it’s good to have the numbers to validate those statements. And, depending on how we ask the question, we might be able to find out even more through looking at different survey segments.
What to segment
There are easy ways to segment, and we all do them – by age, location, what course a student is studying, that kind of thing. And that’s all very helpful! It’s good to know how our audiences differ by demographic data.
But even within those categories we can look at more detailed breakdowns. We can find out whether staff who’ve been in the same department for ten years have different perspectives to those who have moved, or look at the different content preferences of students studying a postgraduate course while living in halls compared to those living in rented houses.
We could look at things like:
– How close students feel to their university community
– How familiar your audience thinks they are with our website
– What social media preferences our audience has
– How much family influences a student’s choice of university
– How long staff have been employed
Mixing and matching the results we get from these questions lets us pick out behaviours or factors that are important to us. We can also try to identify unexpected groups within our audience – are people who don’t like the website more or less likely to follow on social? Do their content preferences tell us what’s missing from our site? Do they also avoid reading our emails?
What we’ve segmented
In one of our recent research projects, we were trying to understand more about students’ relationship with their union. An interesting point we wanted to investigate was whether voting in student elections was a reasonable indicator of a positive feeling about the union, or was it unrelated? In the end we found – as expected – that we can’t make assumptions based on one metric. We have to look at other factors too, such as society membership, accommodation, year of study, or feelings about what a students’ union should do.
Sometimes you uncover problems that might have gone unnoticed. In another recent project we were investigating staff attitudes towards a university website. We found that while the general staff attitude was that the external website (being focused on student recruitment) wasn’t really useful for them, this feeling was even stronger among academic and research staff – the one group who really need a decent external presence to promote the work they do. That was something that really needed to go into the content strategy…
Sometimes it’s hard to know what kind of segments will be important until you start exploring the findings from your survey. And that’s what’s fun – delving into the results to see what unusual things you find.
If you want to know more about how we build surveying and segmentation into our work, just get in touch – we’ll happily talk about it for hours…