One of the interesting presentations at yesterday’s Puget Sound Research Forum conference was from LinkedIn, covering their recently introduced sample services.
Key advantages for sample from LinkedIn as I see it:
- Profiling information is entered by the LinkedIn user for reasons unconnected with survey taking. Regardless of of how much of a problem you think lying on sample panel profiling or screening questionnaires might be, a LinkedIn user’s description of themselves is likely to be fairly accurate – and useful to a survey researcher. LinkedIn claims that their users inflate career history less than resumes on job seeking sites such as Monster because the information is visible to colleagues.
- This isn’t a panel. The primary reason for LinkedIn membership isn’t to take surveys. While response rates may be lower from LinkedIn than from panels, I really care about quality. Response rate figures are meaningless if you are talking to the wrong people, as long as there isn’t a non-response bias. Surveys using LinkedIn sample still have the potential for response bias, of course, but the reasons are less to do with sample than with questionnaire and invitation design.
- LinkedIn says that they will minimize the number of invitations sent to users, perhaps with a limit of no more than 1 or 2 per month. Although I’m skeptical about the actual numbers, I accept the point that LinkedIn’s focus isn’t sample and that frequent invitations would annoy members so I am optimistic that the LinkedIn sample will continue to be lightly surveyed.
Results shared with the audience seem to bear out the truth of the LinkedIn sample promise. A small telephone study validated the accuracy of status, title and start dates for LinkedIn members. Results from LinkedIn sample and a B2B panel for online study of U.S. IT decision makers (a notoriously over-surveyed group) showed some interesting differences. In particular, the panel delivered a high percentage of completes between the hours of 3am and 7am. Other data supported the suspicion that many of the responses were from India and China, not from the U.S. Additionally, the panel respondents were more likely than the LinkedIn sample to complete the survey very quickly, meaning that these were probably not the target audience. Of course, LinkedIn presented information that showed them in the best light, but it was convincing.
I’ll be looking at LinkedIn sample for B2B projects in future, both for my self-service(SurveysAlaCarte) and full-service clients.