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I came across Ask500People.com (now defunct), an interesting website that let you to submit an opinion poll and receive real time answers from people across the world. Ask500People (created by fellow BCers, Wondermill) works off the Google Maps API; you can see where in the world people are voting from. Users vote on a number of user-generated polls and help push the polls they like to the homepage by giving them ‘points’.

Once a poll receives enough points to make it to the top of the homepage it gets distributed across hundreds of websites in site’s polling network. Ask500People.com has a growing community of users who, for the most part, offer interesting questions and pretty engaging discussions in the comment sections of the polls. (more after the jump)

This was a great opportunity for businesses (both online and off) to get affordable, real-time market research. From mapping sentiment geographically to supplementing your feasibility studies, it’s a quick and easy way to harness the wisdom of crowds. If you’re looking into using this, I would definitely check out their Business Service; you can get a lot more value out of the data if you’re able to control certain elements of the polls such as geographical targeting and sample size.From a business perspective, there’s a lot of insight into consumer sentiment Ask500People can provide. Which geographic location should I focus more marketing efforts on? Which logo design should I go with for my new product? What payment plans would convince consumers switch from their cell phone provider to my company? Whether you’re the decision maker, or need some extra ammo for your proposal to the boss, this tool certainly helps.

But how can you use this data to gain actionable insight into optimizing the performance of a website, and how can it be presented in a way that is relevant to other analytics data that one would look at? For the most part, there’s not much insight that Ask500People can provide in that respect that an analytics platform such as Google Analytics or Omniture can’t. If you’ve determined your KPIs and have properly implemented your analytics platform to measure visitor activity against them, you’ve already got the most relevant data to act on that you need; data about your visitors and how they are interacting with your website. But what will it take to win the other guys’ customers over to you? And is that new logo idea really better than the original? Those are questions you could explore with Ask500People.

All in all, a great website to kill a few hours on and a fantastic tool for market research.

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