Utilizing Technology to Aid your Online Survey Experience
Of course it is always important to take the time and due diligence to answers online surveys correctly, however there are ways to use your computer to help organize and speed up some of the repetitive processes involved. Here are a few tips on how to make your computer do a lot of the work for you!
Tip #1 - Utilize your browser auto-complete function.
There’s nothing quite as annoying as having to re-enter your personal information over and over and over again on both profiles and studies - this can admittedly be a huge chunk of your time spent on online surveys! Fortunately, many browsers are equipped with basic auto-complete functions. So you may find you’re able to zip through registrations and screener questions by only typing in the first letter of your name, or the first number of your address, etc. At once, your previously entered information should appear in a drop down box for you to select. (Tip: hit the ‘tab’ key instead of grabbing your mouse each time, so that you’re not having to move back and forth from your keyboard to your mouse.) If you haven’t enabled this function on your browser, it’s worth the time to take a few minutes to find it in your browser’s settings and turn it on. A simple Google search of your current browser should provide quick step-by-step directions to help.
Tip #2 - Make a separate email account.
This is probably my biggest single suggestion to those starting out in the online survey world. It’s been mentioned before that those who are interested in spending a decent amount of time on online surveys probably want to sign up for 10-20 or so strong panels in order to maximize their earnings. Considering that you could receive half a dozen surveys from each panel per week (or even per day in some cases), most people have found that’s it’s much simpler to keep survey invites in a separate account.
Tip #3 - Use the functions of your email account to mange your surveys.
Speaking of email, I’d suggest using an account that allows for a lot of customization in how it allows its users to sort their mail. In my survey world, I’m a huge fan of Gmail - it’s free, allots a huge amount of storage space to each user, and has several different options for sorting and labeling my inbox that helps keep things manageable. I’ve programmed my email account to do several different things to my incoming mail that keeps things sorted before I even log-in! Here’s a glimpse into how I sort my incoming survey invitations to give you some ideas:
- Create folders (or ‘Labels’, in Gmail) for each survey panel. I don’t know about you, but after doing surveys for a year, I’m a little more partial to some companies than others. By sorting my inbox into these categories, I can instantly view all of my invites from a certain panel. This also helps with tracking the data I use to judge how useful a company has been for me; for example, if I click on my ‘ACOP’ tab right now, I can see that I’ve received 34 invites from the company since I joined. I’ve also created a secondary label that indicates that I’ve completed a survey (in my case, I’ve made a tab called ‘*’), so now I can see immediately that I’ve completed 12 of those 34 invites.
- Filter incoming messages from each panel. Once you’ve created your labels for each panel, you can teach your email account to automatically filter certain email addresses to certain folders or labels (as opposed to adding them manually each time you log in). In Gmail, click on the email you want to set up a filter for, and select the ‘More Actions’ tab. Choose ‘Filter messages like these’ and follow the instructions on the screen. Once you’re done, all future emails from that address will automatically go into the Label you’ve created!
- Create a way to tag surveys you’ve completed. In my case, as I’ve mentioned above, I’ve created an additional label that indicates to me that I have successfully completed a survey. I also use the ‘star’ function (the little clear or yellow star next to each message in your inbox) to indicate whether or not those surveys have been credited. In my case, yellow stars are pending; clear are received. I can then click on my ‘Starred’ tab to see what rewards are still pending - with a quick glance, I can see which ones have been waiting too long to be credited, and then follow through with customer service at those panels to track my rewards.
Tip #4 - Keep a record of your earnings.
Not only is it nice to see just how much you’ve earned taking surveys, but by keeping good records about your survey completions, you have a better chance of winning your points back on disputed claims. There are a variety of ways I use to track my survey rewards, depending on the panel.
- Email. As mentioned above, I track most of my survey completions through my email account. My inbox is essentially a huge database of invites, completions, and pending rewards.
- Spreadsheets. While email is my preferred method, there are some panels that are more interactive through your panelist dashboard that through email invites. Panels like Toluna and Surveyhead particularly stick out to me. So for example, with Toluna, I write down the survey ID number and reward offered for each survey I attempt through the website. If I complete it, I also write down the day and time completed. I then periodically compare that list to the list of completed surveys on Toluna’s website. If I find a discrepancy, I can then email customer service and find out when I can expect to receive my points.
I also use a spreadsheet to track my overall earnings. I list the site, the date I’ve requested payment, the amount of the reward, the type of reward (PayPal, cash, gift card, etc.), and then the date I receive payment. This also gives me a quick way to check if any given payment might be overdue.
- Screenshots. As you’re probably aware, there are occasionally times where you’ll complete a survey, but then it fails to show up in your account. I’ve had this happen a few times myself, so I’ve started to take screen captures of the final survey screen (the one that says something along the lines of ‘Thanks, you’re just one step away from submitting your answers!’) as proof that I’ve completed a survey. I still only do this on the higher-paying survey invites - because that would be a lot of screen captures to save otherwise - but I have already had one instance where I was able to submit a screen capture of a completed survey and receive partial credit for a survey that for some reason didn’t register as completed. There are free programs that will take screen captures for you, but if you’re using any version of Windows, you can do these easy steps: Hit the ‘Ctrl’, ‘Alt’, ‘Prt Sc’ buttons on your keyboard; then go to the Start menu and go to Programs, and then Accessories. Click on Paint. Once the program opens, hit ‘Ctrl’ and ‘V’. The image of your screen should have pasted as a new graphic in the program. The save the image to the document or pictures folder of your choice! Screen capture saved! And if you're using Windows 7, you can also take advantage of the new Snipping Tool to take a screen shot.
Tip #5 - Bookmarks.
Finally, the old saying ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ applies to surveys, too. As I mentioned above, there are some survey panels that are based more on online interactions on the panel’s site rather than through email invites. So take advantage of your browser’s bookmark function to keep a handy list of the panels that you’d like to check often. My list includes places like Toluna, Surveyhead, and MyView. You have several options - some may just want to create a separate folder in the bookmark sidebar along with the rest of their favorite sites, others may want to include them in the bookmark tool bar on top of the browser for an even better ‘in your face’ reminder (that’s where mine are!). Either way, this is a great reminder to log in to these sites during the day and maximize your point earning opportunities.
Do you have any other technology-savvy tricks to help you with your surveys? Tell us about them here!
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