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The Complete Guide to New Twitter Polls: What They Are, How They Work and 9 Ways to Use Them

Oct 23, 2015 8 min readGuides & Courses
Photo of Ash Read
Ash Read

Head of Content at Buffer

Twitter has long been the place to turn for opinions on everything from who will win tonight’s game to ideas for your next blog post.

And now it’s just become even easier to gather opinions from your audience on Twitter.

With the release of its new Polls feature (available to all Twitter accounts in the coming days), you can now create super-simple polls directly on Twitter with just the click of a button or a tap on your phone. We can’t wait to test them out for ourselves at Buffer and see the results. And, as with many new features, we’ve been eager to learn:

How can you get started with Twitter polls?

How do they work?

How can you use them to boost your marketing and your business?

In this post I’m happy to cover the ins and outs of Twitter polls, how to set them up, and nine engaging ways you can use polls today. Here we go!

How to get started with Twitter polls

First off: What are Twitter polls?

Polls on Twitter aren’t a totally new concept. In fact people have been running polls on Twitter for a long time through either a “retweet/favorite to vote” mechanism or by using hashtags to count votes.


Twitter polls appear to be a much more effective way to run polls and opens up polls to everyone, natively.

Twitter users can now create their own four-option polls and gather votes from their audience. Polls are a native feature — meaning the polls are embedded directly into the tweets, rather than having to use Twitter Cards.

Here’s how the feature looks on mobile:


Twitter Product Manager Todd Sherman explains more about polls over at Twitter’s blog:

If you want the public’s opinion on anything — what to name your dog, who will win tonight’s game, which election issue people care most about — there’s no better place to get answers than on Twitter. For poll creators, it’s a new way to engage with Twitter’s massive audience and understand exactly what people think. For those participating, it’s a very easy way to make your voice heard.

The nuts and bolts of Twitter polls

  • Twitter polls are limited to four answer options.
  • Polls have a lifespan of up to 24 hours, and tweeters are informed of how long is left to vote, and how many people have voted — as well as the results in percentage.
  • How you voted is not shared publicly (so no one else will be able to see which option you voted for).
  • Once a poll is completed the results can be viewed publicly.

Anatomy of a poll

Twitter polls are made up of a few key components: The four voting options, number of votes counted and the time left before the poll closes.

Before you vote, a Twitter poll looks like this:


Once you have voted in a poll you will see the results as they currently stand, the option you selected marked with a checkmark (only you will see this), the total vote count, and the remaining time left on the poll.


After a poll has ended, the results will update for all to see within the original tweet. Here’s an example from Twitter CFO Anthony Noto:


The fact that no one can see what you voted for is super interesting and means brands won’t be able to target Twitter users based on their votes in polls. As Drew Olanoff explains over at TechCrunch:

Your participation isn’t made public to anyone and I’m told that the data isn’t being shared with marketing firms or brands. I would be really hesitant to respond to a “Coke or Pepsi” poll, for fear that I’d get spammed or targeted by either company.

How to create a poll

You can create polls on official Twitter iOS and Android apps, as well as on desktop at

To create a poll open up the composer and you’ll see a ‘Poll’ button. Here’s how it looks on desktop:


And on mobile:


Once you’ve selected the Poll option, you’ll be able to enter four answer options and ask your question in the text box (just how you’d normally write a tweet).


After you’ve written your question and both answer options, you’ll be able to share this with your followers.

Retweeting polls

When someone retweets a poll, it’ll then appear in their timeline and be seen by their followers just like any other retweet. People can also vote in polls directly from a retweet.


Pinning polls

If you want to get your poll some extra attention you could pin it to the top of your timeline – this is a great way to get some extra votes in and also display the results of your poll.

pinned poll

How you can use polls to boost engagement

Polls are extremely new and there’s not yet any public data on how polls boost engagement or the rate at which followers engage with this feature. Some early polls have been very popular though with many people participating and a high level of retweets. Twitter’s Todd Sherman explains more over at Product Hunt:

Engagement is quite high. Novelty is undoubtedly part of it, but I expect it to be a small part. When you look at some of the polls that have gone big, they tend to be ask questions where people have real opinions, or they are jokes.

Sherman goes on to explain that the early signs are that polls also boost conversation on Twitter:

From what I’ve seen, polls spur more conversations around the topic than asking the same question without a poll because people reflect on what others think.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how people adapt to this new feature.

To help you get a head start, here are 9 ways you could use polls (I’d absolutely love to hear your ideas in the comments too).

1. Letting followers vote on content

Polls can be a great way to not only create engaging content for your followers but to also involve your followers in the content creation process and allow them to play a part in deciding what content you publish.

Example: The Oakland Raiders used a poll to let fans choose which player they’d like to see in the behind the scenes content.


2. Asking for Predictions

Whether it’s who will win the NFL game or who will come out on top in the latest TV talent show, predictions have been a huge part of Twitter conversations for many years. Polls provide a new, fun, and engaging way to ask for predictions from your audience and a platform from which to build conversation.

Example: NFL on ESPN used polls to ask followers to make predictions on a live game.


3. Having fun

Polls don’t always have to be serious and using Twitter’s new feature as a way to have some fun with your followers could be a great way to boost engagement.

Example: Here’s a fun example from Norm Kelly, City of Toronto Councillor, where he mentions some of Drake’s lyrics:

4. Requesting product feedback

Requesting feedback from customers can sometimes feel like a big ask. Polls could be a great way to get bitesize pieces of product feedback in a more fun, snackable way. Try to think about scenarios within your product, learnings you’re after or hypotheses you’re looking to validate that can be broken down into simple four-answer questions and put them out there as polls. Polls won’t give you all the data you need to move ahead with big decisions, but they could help you to get the ball rolling. Example: Here an example poll aimed at finding about about how well-used a feature is


5. Reacting to real-time events

Twitter is amazing for real time coverage and reaction to events, and polls add another layer to this real-time engagement. Instead of tweeting a question to your followers and trawling through hundreds of replies to gauge reaction, you can use a poll to check what your audience things. Example: Poll reactions to events during live sports events or television shows.


6. Gathering opinions for news stories

For years, news companies have polled opinions to sit alongside and support their stories. Twitter polls are a fantastic way to quickly see a snapshot, public opinion on a topic. If you’re writing a news piece or even something for your blog, you could create a Twitter poll to include within your piece. Example: Below is an example poll we could use to gather feedback for a piece on Twitter polls (how meta).


7. Lean market research

Polls provide an awesome way to grab opinions from a snapshot of your audience. If you have a hypothesis floating around about your market, you could create a simple poll as a first step to validating your thoughts. This quick, lean approach will take minimal time and give you results in 24 hours or less. From your results you can then look at whether or not you’d like to further explore your original hypothesis. Example: A market research poll could look like this.


8. Feedback on what you post

Fans and followers love to feel connected to their favorite brands and individuals. Polls open up the opportunity to build even stronger connections. You could use polls to give your followers the opportunity to help shape your content strategy and provide feedback on what they’d like to see more (or less) of in one simple click. Example: Twitter Support asking what content their followers would like to see in their Twitter feed


9. Embed polls in a blog post

Embedding your tweets is a great way to increase reach and drive more attention to your profile. Embedding tweets containing polls into your blog can add an interactive element too. This could be a great way to engage your readers and get them re-engaging with your content or Twitter account to discover the results. Once a poll within your embedded tweet is over, the tweet will show the results and still provide added value to your overall blog post. Example: Here’s an example of an embedded tweet:

Over to you

It’s awesome to see Twitter rolling out new features. I can’t wait to see how creative everyone gets with polls and will be sure to come back and update this post as more research, data and case studies emerge.

What do you think to Twitter polls? How will you use them?

I’m excited to hear your ideas and carry on the conversation in the comments below.

Image sources: Pablo, IconFinder, Unsplash, Twitter

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