Social media: Statistics and Damn Lies

I am sure, many of us have seen presentations that rave about the wonder that is social media. Heck, we’ve even made some of these presentations ourselves.  What I find amusing is the random use of data and statistics to prove a point…any point. Given that I started my career in research and analytics, I love data but I abhor statistics that serve no purpose but to fill up space. Here are three questions that deserve to be asked and answered, when presented with any glittering stats on social media:

#1 Does data match the business case?
I am sure you’ve heard this a million times – Facebook and Twitter have millions of users. That’s great but…what does this mean for your business? Are these sites relevant to your customer base?  We often let large numbers distract us and underestimate the value of ‘quality’ and ‘relevance’. All the traffic on the planet isn’t going to help your business if it’s not your target audience. Explore other options, ask about the smaller  social networks out there, which cater to a more targeted audience and might be a better fit.

#2 What’s the baseline?
Taken out of context, numbers don’t mean much. If you start with a user base of one and add even one user, you have 100percent growth, on the other hand, even a 1percent growth for a company like Google is a huge deal. Same holds true when you’re talking about KPIs and metrics for lead acquisition. For a small company, a couple of leads through Twitter can have a big impact on the revenue, but for a larger company that’s a drop in the bucket. Make sure you ask for clarification on what the numbers are based on and if possible, look at comparable measures to see if the numbers are indeed that impressive when put into context of your business.  

#3 What’s driving that growth?
Presenters love to throw in factoids about social media growth, which sound wonderful but don’t tell the whole story. It’s fair to ask what’s fueling growth for a certain social site or tool. Yesterday, Techcrunch  reported   that the 8th fastest growing fan page on Facebook is devoted to masturbation, so unless, you’re in the porn or related business, this little factoid should raise a red flag. It’s a reminder that you need to do your due diligence and research the user base of any site you’re considering for your social media efforts, rather go with the most popular site.

Yes, social media represents a huge opportunity but instead of just diving in blindly,  it’s time we evolved past the statistical generalities and start digging deeper into the data that’s presented to us. That’s the only way to measure and mine the true potential of social media for your business and brand.

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One response to “Social media: Statistics and Damn Lies

  1. Check out similar thoughts on the hype surrounding social media metrics at http://ims-seo.blogspot.com/2009/01/social-media-too-much-ado-about-numbers.html

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