Many of us have struggled to find participants to fill out our bachelor’s thesis/dissertation survey. I remember logging in into Facebook and finding 5 to 6 “PM’s” (private messages) A DAY from classmates that have been abusing of the CTRL+C and CTRL+V command:
Hey “name”, how are you doing?
Could you please fill out my thesis survey? It’s about 5 minutes long and it’s completely anonymous. I can fill out yours if you want 😉
Good old days…
As bizarre as it sounds, I did not ask them to fill out my thesis survey back, but this is just because the sample of my thesis was ‘manufacturing companies‘, not students, not regular people.
However, if the respondents of my thesis were regular individuals, then I would consider spamming all the contacts of my Facebook friends list. However, this comes with some cons, first and mostly, annoying your friends… But I have good news for you!
Let me introduce you to the award winning start-up project “Survey Exchange”. Even though there have been identical platforms in the past, such as http://www.survey-x-change.com, these are either shut down or do not have very good Google SEO positioning because these type of pages are usually labeled as spam. As a mater of fact, when you try to log in via Facebook, even our beloved start-up has been denied from using Zuckerberg’s APIs or the developers have messed up somewhere in the Login code.
Our start-up has been operating since 2016 and has won multiple student entrepreneurship awards in the UK (Linkedin.com, 2018). As of February 16th 2018, Survey Exchange is the first result to show up when googling the search words “survey exchange” and according to its founders it has a potential market share of half million users in the UK alone (Survey Exchange, 2018), which I honestly think is a long shot, because it’s delusional to think that 100% of British students will adopt their platform before it gets shut down or labeled as spam website and get lost in Google rankings.
The dynamics of this business model are very simple yet very effective. This start-up relies on crowd-sourcing the filling of the surveys to the users of the platform in a #like4like fashion.
Like4Like is a popular hashtag on Instagram whereby users indicate their willingness to receive likes on their posts in exchange of liking other users posts back (hasthagdictionary.com, 2015). It has the same dynamics as Follow for Follow in Twitter and Sub for Sub (subscribe) in Youtube.
In this case, users of the platform have to create a free account in surveyexchange.co.uk and as the users fill out the questionnaires they will earn “Q points” based on the length of the surveys. The more surveys a user answers, the more Q points it will earn, which can be used later to request more responses for their own surveys.
The revenue model of the start-up is quite simple, it generates traffic by facilitating a crowd-sourcing platform for students that need to get their surveys filled in and shows them targeted GoogleAds advertisements in its website. In addition, as it can be be inferred from their privacy agreement, the crowd-sourcing platform is also planning to sell premium services and products that will require personal information (Survey Exchange, 2018). Such products and services are likely to be purchased “Q points” so that the users will get their crowd-sourced responses without having to fill out additional surveys.
The beauty of this business model is in its simplicity. Just setting up a platform where its users generate value by crowd-sourcing their own surveys in exchange of an equal amount of commitment. This is therefore a one-way platform where the value of the network grows in a Metcalfe’s law fashion as the number of the users increases.
Metcalfe’s law states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the users connected to the system (Wikipedia, 2018). This is related to the fact that the number of total possible survey responses ‘n’ (assuming that each user has only 1 bachelor survey) can be calculated by n(n-1), which is asymptotically proportional to n^2.
If there are 2 users, that means that each user will get 1 response for their survey (you can’t answer your own survey), totaling 2 responses [2(2-1)=2]. If there are 4 users there will be 12 responses, if there are 8 users there will be 56 responses…
However, there are some limitations with the valuation of this platform. Not all users will be willing to respond to all surveys, and some users may even have more than one survey.
Users are not expected to stay in the platform for any time longer than their thesis/dissertation data collection process and therefore the traffic of the website is not expected to grow in such exponential fashion.
There are also obvious limitations when it comes to the quality of the answers of the survey, both in terms of reliability of the answers and in terms of validity of the sample.
Users that need large amount of responses are likely to give low quality answers without actually reading the questions in order to get as many Q points as possible within the shortest amount of time.
Another concern is that the owner of the survey has 0 control about the type of person that is filling the survey as at this point the platform does not offer the possibility to filter the responses by demographics nor by other type of variable. This could lead to a very heterogeneous convenience sample that may have nothing to do with the actual focal unit of the thesis/dissertation.
Additionally, due to the nature of this platform, users may abuse of the Social Media function, which allows a user to collect Q points via responses from friends, and get the site black-listed from important websites such as Facebook or Reddit because of the amount of unsolicited requests to visit a link.
Despite all those limitations, the crowd-sourced platform seems to be doing fine as the interface of the website has improved overtime and students do not generally care about the quality of their data as long as they can get it quickly and cheap.
At the end of the day, it is better to ask the crowd to fill out your survey in a negligent way rather than faking the responses yourself and risk to get caught of committing fraud.
Let me know in the comment sections what do you think about this business model. Is it sustainable? Do you think they will shut down their website like it happened to survey-x-change.com? Do you think it will get lost in Google’s search rankings due to being labeled as a spam website? Would you use it for your own thesis?
If the answer to the last question is yes, I encourage you to not make a comment 😉
Thank you for reading!
Linkedin.com, (2018). [online] Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jakub-zimola-706b01104 [Accessed 16 Feb. 2018].
Survey exchange. (2018). Survey exchange | Exchange your survey and get the right respondents. [online] Available at: http://www.surveyexchange.co.uk/ [Accessed 16 Feb. 2018].
Hashtagdictionary.com. (2018). #like4like | HashTag Dictionary. [online] Available at: http://hashtagdictionary.com/like4like/ [Accessed 16 Feb. 2018].