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Using Polls: From Info Gathering to Collaborative Storytelling

Recently, LouAnn talked about creating a form on your blog to engage with your readers — to ask for feedback or…

Recently, LouAnn talked about creating a form on your blog to engage with your readers — to ask for feedback or guide your discussions. Today, let’s chat about adding a poll, which is another interactive way to gather information from your site visitors.

WordPress.com is integrated with a popular poll service called Polldaddy, so you can create a poll right in your dashboard. When you create a poll, you ask one multiple-choice question and create predefined answers from which your readers can choose. The feature is quite handy if you’re looking for specific feedback and want your readers to weigh in on a discussion. You can add a poll to a post, page, or even your sidebar — and configure its settings to suit your needs.

Examples of polls on WordPress.com

Bloggers use polls in different ways. Writer Alaina Mabaso wrote a candid, thorough list of 10 non-fatalistic, real-life tips for freelance writers that approaches freelance writing with common sense. At the end of the post, she uses a poll to gauge whether her tips were helpful or not:

Alaina Mabaso-poll

So, a poll can be a straightforward way to collect feedback from your readers — in this instance, to see what works and what doesn’t.

Editor and linguist Stan Carey uses polls to inform his own research and work. Over at his blog, Sentence first, he explores the history, usage, and quirks of the English language, and his discussions on its evolution — especially in this digital age — are provoking and entertaining.

In a recent post on GIFs, he asked his readers: How do you pronounce GIF?

Adding this multiple-choice question to his post is a simple way to compile responses — and allows readers to interact in this discussion du jour. And if you’re curious, as of this writing, 65.93 percent of this poll’s voters agree that GIF is pronounced with a hard g, as you can see in the results (which Stan has opted to display after a reader casts a vote):

Stan Carey-poll

Photographer Ming Thein has a comprehensive site for photography, full of commentary, photo essays, tutorials, reviews, and more. Ming leads workshops, and recently added polls to a post to ask readers their location preferences for upcoming sessions in Europe.

He includes two polls: one to gauge interest for workshops in various cities, from Prague to Munich, and a second one underneath for voters to specify a time during the fall. Here, you can see how a poll can be extremely helpful in project planning and logistics.

Getting creative with collaborative storytelling

We love how Tracy Cembor has taken polls to the next level. Inspired by childhood “choose your own adventure” tales, she decided to write a steampunk adventure and asked her readers for help:

I loved reading the Choose Your Own Adventure stories when I was a kid. It was so cool to be able to decide what the brave adventurer did next. Writing a story gives me the same kind of control, but writing is a solitary activity.  I have been brainstorming writing activities that have collaborative input. This is going to be our trial run together.

In the post, she introduced the characters — a determined engineer, an idealistic scientist, and a surly engineering supervisor — and created three separate polls so her readers could vote on each character’s name. It’s a clever and focused way to encourage collaboration:

How to create a poll

To create and add a poll to a post or page, click on the “Add Poll” icon when you’re in edit mode — the circular icon between the “Add Media” and “Add Contact Form” buttons.

Add Poll icon

If you’ve never used the poll feature before, you’ll be prompted to create a new account or import an existing Polldaddy account. Choose the option that’s appropriate for you, then click on the “Add New” button near the top.

You’ll now see the “Add New Poll” screen with various modules to configure:

Create a New Poll

On this screen, you’ll see a field at the top to name your poll. Below, you’ll see these modules:

  • Answers: Insert the poll’s predefined answers in the fields (or click “Add New Answer” to add a new field).
  • Poll Style: Use the left and right arrows to sift through a slideshow of styles.
  • Save: An assortment of options, including the ability to randomize the answer order, allow other answers, and allow voters to choose more than one answer (under “multiple choice”).
  • Results Display: Set whether you would like the results public or hidden (or show percentages only).
  • Repeat Voting: Apply settings to block repeat voters (by cookie or by cookie and IP address).
  • Comments: Adjust setting for comment moderation.

Configure each option to suit your needs. When you’re finished, click the blue “Save Poll” button, and a message will appear at the top confirming that your poll has been created:

Poll created

Click the “Embed in Post” button to insert the poll into your post or page.

Embedded in post

As with any draft, you can click “Preview” to view this new poll to ensure all looks fine, before you hit “Publish.”

Extras — What else can you do?

  • To insert an existing poll, just click on the circular “Add Poll” icon to see a list of your existing polls.
  • To add a poll to your sidebar, use a Text Widget. In your dashboard, go to Feedbacks → Polls, and you’ll see a list of any polls you’ve created. Hover over the appropriate poll in the list, and among the options that appear, click on the “Embed & Link” button. Copy the code in the “WordPress Shortcode” field at the top left. You can then paste this code into a new Text Widget in your sidebar under Appearance → Widgets.

You’ve just learned how to create a new poll for your blog! Let us know if you plan to add a poll to an upcoming post — or if you already use polls on your site.

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  1. I have poll daddy account. I tried to use it, but I do not know how, Now I will go back and try it again with this new idea. Thanks

  2. Going to use this hopefully before the end of the week, as I’m gathering research for my online fiction series! Thanks for the info and help. :-) mattsden101

  3. I have used polls a couple of times. I cannot see it to edit after it is embedded. I tried editing seperately then saving it, but the new wording just got added to the old text rather than replacing it, I had to delete the poll entirely and redo it else the old words came back. Is that the way it’s supposed to work? Not being able to see the poll as part of the editable text makes using it a bit dicey … for me, anyhow.

    1. After you go in to edit an existing poll (in Feedback >> Polls), make sure to click “save changes” and allow for a bit of lag time (up to 15 minutes) for the copy to update. I’ve also troubleshooted by removing/re-adding an updated poll and/or confirming the shortcode as well. In other words, I don’t think you’re meant to delete and re-do the poll entirely. If your issues continue, you can ask for help in the forums or contact Support.

  4. Thanks for including my pronunciation-of-GIF poll! I should do them more often, and in the meantime am enjoying the other polls and blogs you’ve featured here.

      1. Yes, it was curious timing, and his remarks on the “correct” pronunciation of GIF have reignited the debate; it’s been all over my Twitter feed this week. I may have to write a follow-up. :-)

  5. Thanks for including my freelance writing poll in this informative round-up. I agree that polls are a great tool for blog posts, with many purposes beyond just soliciting feedback for myself. There’s a value to making the blog interactive by giving readers an easy, concrete way to respond. I also sometimes write polls that are almost like an extra joke in the post – at least one of the answers on my polls usually has a humorous twist, in line with the theme of the blog post.

  6. I tried the poll with four flash fiction posts and asked the readers to vote which one they felt should be expanded. With nearly 500 views I only got six votes. People didn’t take time to register their opinion. Any tips on getting people engaged to use the poll?

    1. Regarding your poll — “Which story should be expanded?” — I’m not completely sure why the lack of engagement, as I’m not familiar with your site, but one idea could be that a response requires a bit more thought (ie, your reader has to have read each of those stories in order to leave an appropriate response). So, it’s a bit more involved than, say, if you created a poll at the end of a single story, and asked for feedback on that.

      That said, for readers who *have* read all of those stories, it’s a straightforward, simple question.

      Overall, it’s a good question — perhaps this could be a follow-up post at some point: “tips on getting readers to answer your poll.” So, thanks.

  7. This is very helpful. I have been wanting to add polls to my blog to gauge how to better my blogs topics and to start more conversation/comments. Thank you.

  8. Too bad it isn’t integrated into the WordPress software. I use WordPress for my blog that is at my own domain. This would be just another plug-in to install. I have enough plug-ins already.

  9. Thanks for another post on polls. Your first one prompted me to try it on my most recent post. It is working except for one crucial thing: the results (and comments in the ‘other’ box) are not showing up. If I go behind the scenes to Polldaddy, I can see them — but what fun is that? I tried to correct it, but I can’t figure it out. It shouldn’t be this complicated, should it?

    1. Hi there — I went to your post and answered the question — I entered my own response in “Other” (for the record, I said I thought they were talking about what they’d read in the newspaper that morning :) ). I saw the results of the poll, so that’s working fine, but no, I did not see the specific replies left by those who used “Other” as well. I will confirm if this is how it’s supposed to work.

      1. Hi Cheri — thank you for testing my poll in the ‘Other’ box. Seeing the specific replies left by those who answered “Other” would be a lot more fun. Thank you for checking out whether or not it’s supposed to work that way. (Loved your response and would like other readers to be able to view it)