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Survey research is the antidote to boring, tired, inauthentic content

Survey research is the antidote to boring, tired, inauthentic content

Content marketers, I’m going to share an ugly truth that you probably already know: Most of your content isn’t working.

Running a company blog? Only 11% of people we surveyed say they’ll read it.

Want to be a thought leader? Seven in ten people say they trust information that comes from news or business publications more than info from a brand’s website.

These days, people have less time, less patience, and more skepticism about what they read than ever before. Couple that with an explosion in the popularity of content marketing where 88% of B2B marketers use content in their marketing strategies, and it’s no wonder we’re having trouble cutting through the noise.

It may sound dire, but it’s actually an environment where savvy, authentic content marketers can thrive. If you want your content to make headlines or put your company’s blog on the map, you can’t keep using recycled ideas and stale statistics. You’ve got to get your own.

To prove it, we ran a survey using SurveyMonkey Audience to ask more than 1,000 people about their content consumption preferences and opinions. We found 3 things that should change the way you approach your content.

Find out how to run a survey for for creating your own research-backed content today with SurveyMonkey Audience.

We all know the feeling of satisfaction you get when you find the perfect statistic to support a thesis or back up a claim. So often, it’s the final puzzle piece that makes your entire article come together.

Your readers feel that way, too. The adage “show; don’t tell” has never been more true. The vast majority of people (82%) don’t want to read opinion-based treatises on why your point of view, company, or product is the best—they want to see the data. Why? Content that uses data is just more persuasive than content that doesn’t.

Equally important, 74% people say that content that contains stats and data is more trustworthy.

In the age of spin, it’s getting harder and harder to tell what’s real and what’s false. Fairly reported data with clearly stated, understandable methodology is an objective truth people can trust—and even get behind themselves.

This is especially true in content marketing. Andy Crestodina, the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Orbit Media Studios has gained a following and a enviable SEO presence in part by taking advantage of the idea of being citable.

He searches for the “missing stat” that’s frequently stated but rarely supported, and sends a survey to get original research that supports it. With content that’s optimized for SEO to answer people’s queries about that missing stat, his content becomes a magnet for backlinks—and in turn, tops Google searches again and again.

“Combined, the surveys have been linked to by 1600+ websites and shared 4000+ times. I feel like I’m cheating because it works so well.” —Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media Studios

It’s a losing game trying to get citations from using someone else’s data. Sometimes you’ve got to make your own.

Asking people to fill out a form before they access your content is a surefire way to generate leads to nurture, send marketing materials to, and eventually target for your sales teams.

“Gating” content like this may seem like a pretty small hurdle, but a lot of our respondents were skeptical of the idea. Only 33% of people said they’d provide their contact info a few times a month or more frequently in order to receive content.

Why? They keep getting burned. Two-thirds of the people we surveyed said the content they received after providing their contact info wasn’t valuable.

Maybe it’s because the content treads the same ground as everything else that’s been written on the subject, or perhaps it provided more opinion than actionable stats or facts.

The point is, these people are losing trust, and they understand that gated content isn’t “free”—particularly in the age of targeted ads and data mining. When we asked respondents for reasons they wouldn’t give their contact information in order to read content, top concerns were privacy, spam, and not wanting to be marketed to.

This isn’t to say that gated content isn’t a good way of making your content work for your business goals. It still is. But in an increasingly competitive environment, it’s impossible to stand out to your prospects and make them trust you without a focus on quality. Your content has to be interesting and useful—it must be something people have never seen before.

You can’t rely on other people’s research to provide the type of fresh, educational content that people are looking for. But don’t despair—doing your own research isn’t just for big companies any more. Anyone—even scrappy startups—can do it. Just look at Wrike’s content strategy.

They use surveys to get original research on interesting topics that are intrinsically tied to what they do as a company. The gated content they create as a result serves as the centerpiece for their lead generation efforts and gets nearly endless utility.

In a recent Pew Research study, younger Americans significantly outperformed older Americans in their ability to distinguish factual statements from opinion-based statements. Rising generations of “media literate” content consumers are going to demand more rigor in how you conduct, use, and cite original research if they’re going to trust your content—and by extension, your brand.

In our own study, 58% of US adults said they pay close attention to the data collection method or source when reading content that cites research or data.

The demand for research quality extends even to survey research. Two thirds (66%) of the people in our study said 1,000 or more respondents is the lowest sample size they’d trust in content that cites survey research and data. Only 15% of people would trust data coming from 100 responses or fewer.

While people may be getting more savvy, they’re certainly not getting more patient. If the average read time of a blog is around 15 seconds (thanks for getting this far!), you’ve got to deliver your message fast and catch their attention faster. Our respondents said visual elements like charts and infographics are the best way to do it.

42% of people preferred data visualized in charts, graphs, or infographics, while 32% preferred data to be included as part of a sentence, and 25% preferred data tables or grids.

Here’s the good news: Creating your own original research is within your reach, not terribly expensive, and not even that hard once you get the hang of it. All it takes is a well-designed survey about an interesting topic that’s valuable or related to your brand.

With your own research in hand, you can create content that people trust, cite, and share. You can build positive relationships with the people you want to be your customers and turn them into loyal promoters of your brand. If you get good enough at it, you can even find your way into the media spotlight.

We literally wrote the book on how to create high-quality, research-backed content using surveys and we’d like to share it with you (and no, it’s not gated). It will teach you everything you need to know about how to plan, create, and send a survey—and how to create and amplify the content that comes from it.

If you still don’t believe that original research is compelling enough to get people to engage with your content then consider this: You’ve read all the way through this article.

Read the guide here and tell us how you liked it on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.