Guide | Audience surveys

An overview of different methods of audience surveying using Audience Finder

Any organisation can gain valuable insight into their audiences by asking them about themselves and what they think.

The audience survey is an essential methodological component of Audience Finder, based on collecting data on current audience members using a standardised framework and question set. Within this framework, different methodological approaches to the audience survey are offered, and which one you choose is often dependent on available resources and audience behaviour.

Choosing the right approach to data collection is essential and there will always be a trade-off between resources, accuracy and scope. For organisations participating in Audience Finder, staff are available to help you choose the right survey methods and minimum standards required to produce a meaningful and robust assessment of your audiences.

This article covers:

  1. Collection standards
  2. Methodologies - face to face and e-survey
  3. Collecting using a tablet

Collection standards

The basic survey is free and consists of a number of core questions. The wording and inclusion of these questions is compulsory in Audience Finder to allow for the greatest comparison and benchmarking. The two exceptions are:

  1. There is an alternative version of Question one around frequency for organisations whose events are annual
  2. Question two around artform can be removed to reflect your programme or the artform can be pre-filled automatically if you are a single artform organisation

Further standard questions can be added starting from £100 per theme, per year covering the following topics:

  • About Visit
  • Cultural Activity
  • Community
  • Learning Outcomes
  • Family Ratings
  • Fundraising
  • General Communications: awareness and encouragement
  • Website Use
  • Social Media: general use
  • Social Media: use related to your organisation
  • Group Composition
  • Intentions
  • Membership
  • Opinions
  • Profile
  • Quality of Exhibition Experience
  • Sales
  • Transport

The standardisation of questions allows for the greatest comparison between a range of data sets. However the Audience Finder survey can be customised with bespoke questions where necessary (prices vary), please contact someone in your regional team to discuss specific needs.

You can use a face to face interviewer led OR e-survey methodology, and we recommend you collect for a minimum of one year to ensure you sample from a representative cross-section of your audience. Sticking to a set timeframe will also allow you to compare results year on year. During this time you should aim for at least 380 responses, to be statistically confident in your results (see FAQs for why this is the magic number).

Responses are updated to the online dashboard for monitoring once a week from the moment you start collecting. Respondent’s postcodes are profiled using Audience Spectrum once you reach the 380 target. Your results can be compared to a number of free comparators including population census data and other arts attender predefined groups. At the end of the year, you can request an excel file of the raw response data for free.


Methodology

Face-to-face surveys

This methodology is interviewer led and requires organisations to recruit and manage their own fieldworkers to administer the questionnaire. In order to ensure a large and representative sample, the survey responses should be collected consistently throughout your full year of programming.

This approach works well for organisations that have a steady flow of visitors, giving fieldworkers a larger sample frame within which to conduct the surveys. It may be less appropriate for organisations whose audience members often arrive and leave at the same time, minimising the opportunity to carry out the surveys.

It is strongly recommended that all organisations that have the resources and appropriate audience footfall flow, conduct a face to face survey.

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What does it involve?

    1. Get your survey set up; contact the team or simply complete this simple webform to start your set up.
    2. Recruit and train fieldworkers; these can be volunteers, members of staff or professional fieldworkers
    3. Collect a robust and representative sample; to achieve this will include training and support for fieldworkers on good interview technique and sampling methods and a well thought out sample frame.
    4. Input the data into your online portal found on the Audience Finder dashboard; this can take longer than you expect and will need to be allocated a reasonable amount of time (unless you are using tablets, see below).
    5. Analysis: always remember why you are collecting data and build in regular times when the insight can be considered, analysed and shared.

Useful resources: Good practice guide to sampling, A guide to fieldworkers

Pros:

  • Gives good quality data
  • Most likely to provide a representative sample
  • Can provide staff/volunteers with useful transferable skills
  • Response rates are known during the event, and methodology can be tweaked accordingly

Cons
  • Fieldworkers require research and interviewer training
  • Not appropriate for all events
  • Data entry can be time-consuming

E-survey

This methodology requires members of staff or volunteers to collect email addresses from bookers at the point of sale and/or at the point of exit, throughout the year. It's recommended that surveys are sent out reasonably close to the time of collection so that bookers will have recently engaged with the organisation's offer and will be able to remember their visit more accurately.

When using box office information to send out the survey you may want to consider sampling your audience to avoid survey fatigue from your more regular attendees. Again the survey should be sent out as close to the event as possible.

Organisations are advised to conduct their audience surveys using a standard e-survey in the cases where footfall or experience type make it difficult to conduct face-to-face surveys e.g. theatre events.

What does it involve?

  1. Get your survey set up; contact the team or simply complete this simple webform to start your set up.
  2. (If you are collecting email addresses on the day) Recruit fieldworkers; these can be volunteers, members of staff or professional fieldworkers.
  3. Email your sample; invite participants to complete the survey and attached the link to the email. Sending it out yourself means you can personalise the message and use the opportunity to build on your relationship with the participant.
  4. Analysis: always remember why you are collecting data and build in regular times when the insight can be considered, analysed and shared.

Useful resources: Good practice guide to sampling, A guide to fieldworkers

Pros

  • Cheap and quick to gather addresses – one fieldworker can gather up to 20 contacts in one hour
  • Can feasibly include a higher number of questions than the face-to-face survey
  • No survey response data entry required

Cons

  • Difficult to get a decent sample – unlikely to achieve more than a 25% response rate from those you invite to participate
  • Sample likely to be biased, unless completion of the e-survey is incentivised
  • Requires some time to input email addresses and to send out invitation emails

Collecting using a tablet

To save time on data entry some organisations choose to use tablets for collecting surveys face to face. The Audience Agency does not provide the devices as standard, however, there are two ways in which you can use your own device together with the Audience Finder survey:

With internet connection

If you have a wifi connection you can use a browser to open the data entry link on the tablet and enter the responses directly into the link as you go - removing the need for storing and entering paper responses after the event. For this, you will need a relatively reliable wifi connection in the areas in which your fieldworkers are active.

Without internet connection

You can still use your tablet to collect surveys however you'll need a SNAP mobile app, which The Audience Agency licence and set up for you. Using the app you can collect responses even when out of wifi range, then syncs them up with the Audience Finder system once back within range of an internet connection.

Those purchasing the SNAP Mobile app will be sent full instructions by the Audience Finder team, and that staff member will act as their liaison for problem solving or enquiries. However, a brief overview of the steps are listed below:

  • You can download the application from your tablet's app store (e.g. Play Store, iTunes Store or equivalent)
  • It is called 'Snap Mobile Anywhere’ - a few apps may appear when you search for this, choose the one called “Snap Mobile Anywhere” published by Snap Surveys
  • The first time you use the app you will have to be connected to the internet - please refer to your device instructions if you are unsure of how to do this
  • The Audience Agency provide you with a login and your survey will be preloaded into the application
  • Once set up you can enter surveys using the app even when you are offline, and responses are saved locally on the app
  • Once back in range of an internet connection you will need to upload responses to the Audience Finder system by clicking 'Sync' on the app Home Page
  • Surveys should be synced at least once a fortnight to avoid causing a backlog, and to make sure you can view the most up to date information in your dashboard
  • Using the app you can check in real time how many surveys you have collected and uploaded