Halloween is scary fun, but the scary aspects of online panels are just plain scary.
Just ask Count App-ula (pictured), who came to our office on Halloween to announce that only knowledge -- and advanced, all-mobile methodology -- will empower us to stop the threat before it's too late. Consider yourself warned against these common tactics of the monsters who lurk in the hidden, dimly-lit, ominously non-transparent recesses of online panels:
The “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” Effect
As in the classic sci-fi/horror films (we recommend both the 1956 and 1978 versions), authentically human consumers are replaced by manufactured “pod people” who replicate actual, thinking survey respondents.
In the movies, the pod people spread confusion and paranoia en route to destroying the very idea of autonomous human thought and action. In online research, habitual, self-repeating survey takers sign up for dozens or scores of surveys and survey panels, infecting data across multiple studies with mass-manufactured responses. Too much data coming from too few people is a hidden horror of online research. And for online methods, the only antidote is out of reach: a large, robust, engaged panel that could easily encompass all demographics. Lacking the antidote, online panel purveyors are forced to look the other way and tolerate pod people for the sake of filling survey quotas.
The Mad Robot-Scientist Conspiracy
A technically gifted mastermind creates a robot army that swarms the online data universe, turning it into an unreliable mess. This is no fantasy: savvy code-writers can unleash software robots that create multiple email accounts so they can receive multiple email invitations and take multiple online surveys. Questionnaires answered by robots pour multiple rewards into their masters' accounts while injecting toxic data into online studies. Insights turn into insanity. It's downright inhuman.
The Zombie Apocalypse
Robots and survey-taking pod-people churn out so much brainless-replicant data that online market research stops matching observable reality and falls under suspicion. Clients begin to wonder whether the data they're getting has been infected to the point where it's undermining instead of informing sound, fact-based business decision-making.
Yes, folks, it looks as if we're in for a very dark and tragic ending....But wait!
All-Mobile Rescue Unit Saves the Day
Pod people, robots and zombies wreak havoc on online data, but they cower at the sight of a smartphone. That’s because smartphone owners who’ve downloaded a proprietary market research app – MFour’s Surveys on the Go®, for example (in fact, it's the only survey app whose panel is mobile-only) – can’t be turned into pod-like replicas of themselves. Nor can they unleash robots to profitably game the system and bring down a study’s reliability.
The Saving Power of in-App Surveys
The survey app is a secure environment that banishes Bots and detects body snatchers before they can invade. Unlike email accounts, which are easily multiplied by a single greedy individual or a bot, smartphones correspond one-to-one with a single, individual, flesh-and-blood owner. For further verification, each phone has a unique, identifying code and can be pinpointed with GPS location.
MFour/Surveys on the Go® has a variety of ways to verify panelists' identities, including sign-ins through their Facebook accounts, payouts through PayPal, and log-ins using fingerprint validation. All are reliable markers of individual personhood and earnest intent.
Another advanced safeguard is Demographic Remembering – which can detect whether respondent's answers from survey to survey include inconsistencies that signal an attempt at impersonation or duplication.
Perhaps most important, there's no mysterious cloak of gloomy night and graveyard mist enshrouding an all-mobile panel if it's carefully recruited and highly engaged. The proof that its members do their own thinking and answering is on display in the bright daylight where apps are downloaded: Apple's App Store and Google Play. There, Surveys on the Go® has received tens of thousands of overwhelmingly positive, unsolicited comments and ratings from people who sound off as individuals about the experience they've had as survey-takers.
You can tell from their comments that our panelists are human and alive and individual -- and that they care about a good experience and appreciate that a good experience is exactly what they get. A panel that's in it for the engagement as well as a reward is verifiably human. Pod people and robots and zombies don't care, and they won't reciprocate with an honest effort to share what they think, do and feel. Our engaged panel of more than a million demographically representative active panelists give your research the verifiably human element that makes it valid and useful.
As Count App-ula says:
“Zombies and robots are taking online surveys. Mobile doesn’t allow that. It’s all fresh blood.”