It was big news when Twitter recently announced the rollout of Twitter polls as basic functionality across all Twitter accounts. But, what exactly are Twitter polls, and how can you use them as a cost-effective means of polling your followers?
Simply put, Twitter Polls are a new feature that allows users to chime in on all sorts of topics in a structured manner. At present, poll creators input at least two choices, with a maximum of four allowed.
If you're interested in creating a Twitter poll, you can do so easily using either the web interface or the iOS or Android versions of the Twitter app. On twitter.com, just start composing a tweet as usual, but hit the "add poll" icon and start typing your poll question in the main compose box. Insert your first choice in the Choice 1 box, second choice in the Choice 2 box, and...I think you're smart enough to figure out the third and fourth (optional) options.
As a user, voting in a Twitter poll is quite easy. Whenever you see a poll within a tweet, just click/tap the option you'd like to select. Once you vote, the results are instantly displayed, with a checkmark next to the choice you selected. You can only vote on each poll once, unless you're being sneaky and signing in on multiple accounts for some odd, sketchy reason. Once a poll ends, if you've voted in it, you will receive a notification letting you know of the final results.
Each Twitter poll ends anywhere between 5 minutes and 7 days after it's been posted, depending on the duration set by the user who posted the poll. The default duration for any poll is 24 hours.
If you don't want anyone to know how you voted, no problem: by default, you're voting in private. Poll participants can't see how particular people have voted. In fact, the creator of the poll can't either.
If you want a lot of responses to your poll, by all means, encourage your users to retweet your poll! Of course, they'll be more likely to do so if you ask an interesting question. People can also vote in polls directly from a retweet. You can also pin a poll to the top of your timeline, making it most likely to get more votes. Of course, a poll can only be voted on for 24 hours, even if you pin it to the top of your timeline.
Of course, there are some limitations to polls. For one, you can't add a photo. - at least not yet. If polls do continue to gain momentum, one logical step would be for Twitter to monetize them by allowing advertisers to pay for additional options, such as adding media to their polls.
Another minor limitation: presently, you can't schedule Twitter Polls for the future--you've got to post them in real time, unless you're running them as part of a prescheduled Twitter ad.
Of course, Twitter has other paths towards monetizing polls. The most obvious route would be to encourage companies to pay for more responses to their polls. Since Twitter already owns so much data about each and every user, a political consulting firm could tweet the poll "What do you think about Donald Trump?" and then Twitter could parse the answers for its advertiser. So, the advertiser would learn, for instance, that action film enthusiasts love Ted Cruz, but foreign film lovers prefer Hillary Clinton.
If your company uses a third-party like Hootsuite, unfortunately, you can't yet use Twitter polls without switching over to Twitter.com or the official Twitter app. At present, your followers using Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, or third-party Twitter apps will see the question you've posed, but they won't have the option to select one of the 2-4 choices you've laid out for them.
Another advantage of polls is that you can embed them inside of blog posts. Of course, keep in mind that whatever time window you've created as a brand--5 minutes to 7 days--will still apply to the poll you've embedded, so if your posts typically get substantial traffic a few days after they're initially posted, make sure the poll stays active for a few days.
Any other questions about Twitter polls? Have you participated in any Twitter polls lately?