Twitter certainly seems to think it’s the former, although its opinion may be somewhat biased.
In a blog post announcing the new polling feature, Product Manager Todd Sherman said:
For poll creators, it’s a new way to engage with Twitter’s massive audience and understand exactly what people think. For those participating, it’s a very easy way to make your voice heard.
How does it work?
In the past, Twitter users have conducted makeshift polls along the lines of: ‘RT for X or favourite for Y.’
Now, however, people will have the ability to create a two-button poll within the compose box that will remain live for 24 hours. Voting is anonymous, and there is no restriction on what polls users can participate in.
The video below illustrates how to use the new feature.
Coming soon! We’re rolling out the ability for everyone to create polls on Twitter: https://t.co/pH5a8q9Ujz pic.twitter.com/ijAKEMUdf1
— Twitter (@twitter) October 21, 2015
Journalists are already taking advantage of the new feature, as you can see in the example below from Times writer Tim Montgomerie.
Today’s opinion poll: Which of these two options on tax credits policy is most dangerous for Osborne?
— Tim Montgomerie ن (@montie) October 25, 2015
While restrictive, you can see from the example below that the polls enable publishers to have greater control over potential answers to questions.
Rather than a simple ‘no’, they are prompted to say whether they want to know more.
Have you seen the new #Twitter Poll option? #socialmedia #Marketing #polls
— Shirley Pittenger (@smpsocialmedia) October 24, 2015
The polls have received mixed reviews so far from users, as you can see from the two examples below.
You can make polls on Twitter now – but will you use them? https://t.co/JVhnR215ma
— The Independent (@Independent) October 21, 2015
Are these Twitter polls annoying?
— Michael Regan (@MichaelRegan) October 21, 2015
Now let’s look at the opportunities for marketers when it comes to Twitter polls in their current format.
Customer-led content decisions
I’m not suggesting you base your entire content strategy upon a two-question poll on social media, but on a smaller scale they could be used to make decisions about what to show your customers on Twitter.
‘Would you like to see more of X?’ or ‘Did you find Y useful?’
Using polls in this way enables you to ask your Twitter audience a direct question about what they actually want from you, and then you’ll be in a better place to give it to them.
You could have asked them this before polls came along, of course, but there’s something so easy and anonymous about this feature that I think people will be more likely to bother answering the question.
Market research for new products or services
If you’re in the process of developing a new product or service and you want to gauge potential interest, Twitter polls could be a great place to do some market research.
‘Would you buy X if it was available?’ or ‘Would Y benefit your business?’
Obviously these are very simple questions that only really measure general interest in an idea. But if people seem particularly interested in the idea you could conduct further polls with more specific questions.
Increasingly the chosen metric upon which to base social media success is quality rather than quantity, i.e. the way followers interact with your brand rather than the number of them you have.
Asking questions has always been an effective way to boost engagement on Twitter, and these polls provide an easy way for brands to do that.
I also think consumers will be more likely to engage with the polls than a straightforward question, partly because it only requires a simple click or touch, but also because of their anonymous nature.
Of course we can’t have a whole post about digital marketing without mentioning data. That would be preposterous.
There are many ways to collect information about your target customers, but Twitter polls could provide a quick and easy way to gain first party data through surveys.
The only issue with this is the simplicity of the polls in their current form, which brings me onto my final point…
Are two voting buttons enough?
One of the main concerns people have highlighted is that the polling feature only allows for two answers.
This works fine for a simple yes or no question, or ‘do you prefer x or y,’ but it does mean brands will be restricted in the questions they can ask.
It’s interesting that Twitter chose this approach. It could be for technical reasons, but I suspect the social network wanted to keep things simple while testing out the public’s reaction to the new feature.
Perhaps we’ll see more buttons added to the polls in future if it takes off, but for the moment you’ll have to ask those multi-answer questions in the old school manner.