Social Media Analytics - a discipline spanning from Hell to Heaven (and we choose where it goes)
A review of the book Social Media Analytics by Marshall Sponder - Social Media Book Club, Book of the Month, September 2011
I think I've never been struck with so much ambivalence as with reading this book. On one hand, I really enjoyed all levels of information, knowledge, insights and wisdom delivered through-out the papers in between the hard covers. On the other hand, it truly scared the sh*t out of me.
Before getting into details of the what, how and why, let me share a relevant warmup screenshot. A warmup image, still being hot from the event it represents.
The passed weekend I was Twit-Jockying me thru an event called "Mat2011" in Växjö, Sweden ("Food2011"), jam-packed with all things (sustainable) food-related - a combined conference/forum indoors, with a market/fair of real-world producers of regionally produced - well, let me call it - "real food". Let me point you to my main blog and the official blog along the way for reports on that, if you're interested on the post-event blogging on the sustainability+food connection, flowing at the moment. I was there in the name of representing Social Media Club Kronoberg, where I act as an advisory to the BoD. Ok, you get the pic - "all-things-connected".
My friends over at Twingly had set up a so-called Liveboard, tracking the Pulse on the Social Web, the part called "Twitter" :), in real time, with the stunning dashboard graphics it delivers. Keyword based tracking on the hashtag #mat2011 as it was, you still got a very good pic on what was going on in conversations, sharings, reporting and that slight bit of controversy in a quite, excuse me - f*kked up - industry, as we know. I start with how the board looked before the doors opening, and end the article with an image of a post-event image.
I think this illustrates very well the subject at hand we're dealing with, when it comes to the piece of literature Marshall Sponder have given us - "Social Media Analytics - Effective Tools for Building, Interpreting, and Using Metrics".
This is written as a pre-webinar posting, where I actually will boil down my sharing of thoughts into three questions I would like to have covered, as a response in the webinar - or later, elsewhere. And with a few hours towards deadline at the time of writing, they will be delivered semi-spontaneous for the Author, but wrapped up in something with a history of something that set my brain on fire when getting my hands on the copy of the book. Yes, the book content.
Given the story of Brian Solis' "Engage!" in its 1.0 and 2.0 versions, my first question is:
- How long do we see this book on the shelves (or in a Tab/Pad near you) before it hits second edition?
I mean, the area changes so ultimately fast, the books delivered in the social media space at large, and especially in this dynamic field of rapid change in itself, risk becoming irrelevant the second you actually buy it. And that is a key problem - or a possibility if you are a disruptive innovator in the field of "books" ;). Still, let me get to that "must have" pointer in the intro - you learn stuff that are quite timeless at the same time you get a review of the overcrowded plethora of the listening and measuring tools, platforms - and approaches! - out there, with all their pro's and con's, niching, contexts, focus biases and purposes.
With information, insight and knowledge ranging from the smallest little detail level to the very Big and Holistic Picture.
Detail: Did you know that complex keyword-based search strings can't go beyond booelan complexity beyond 1024 characters with all their AND, OR and XOR-think in one of the platforms (I am not sharing which...an Industry Neutral posting as it is ;) ? Google, at least, have 2048 characters in the Query Strings. Search for "Friends", and you know what I mean what problems syntactic searches have.
The Big Picture: If an analytics setup isn't deeply rooted in and attached to a well thought-thru - and implemented! - social media strategy, which to the fullest would mean a business "going fully social", really hard-core all the way, it risks just hanging there as yet another useless business activity. Engaging a few, just consuming time and tracking resources, crunching numbers ending up with a list of charts no one cares about and take action on, and at the worst case - being counter-productive!
The GIGO rule never have been more alarming in my readings and reflectins as diving in with this "discipline" - Garbage In, Garbage Out.
Let me quote one of the seniors quoted in the punch-line chapter:
"Remarkably, the majority of measurment firms and teams fail to address the concerns of corporate leaders. Too often, the consultants of the wlrd become so fascinated with their technology or approach that they forget that all great innovation in this space will be client driven. Data can only become an insight when a company decideds it is valuable and worth acting on. Insights that don't lead to corporate buy-in are as useful as last week's newspaper."
Bob Pearson, Chief Technology and Media Officer of WCG, and HarvardBusiness.com, CIO.com and Adweek contributor, continues;
"Overall, the trend for the analytics marketplace is quite clear, at least from the perspective of today's Fortune 500 leader. The field is wide open for those firms that can consistently provide insights that will lead to increased brand value, sales and customer satisfaction. Those who cannot translate data into reliable insights that can be acted on in real time will be left at the roadside."
In a nutshell, this hits the epicentre of what is the greatest value with the book. Inviting you to a world where the client-side knowledge increases to the level where the prerequisites are set for a far better ordering process. From the moment the agency delivers the Social Media Analytics services at the very first hot incoming call, asking for a quota with a service-in-demand - Educating The Customer! The main purpose of writing the book as Sponder clearly points out, and on that point, Marshall really delivers.
But, you heard me.
- "Scared sh*tless"?
Yes. Here the keyword "social" plays in.
...that hope of an organized activity actually getting "human" and "humanistic"
...following an attitude of really getting people into authentic conversations with equally authentic, deep, care in all conversation dimensions is there
... all as a consequence of a fully implemented cultural shift and change following the promises of turning into a truly Social Business (social in purpose, meaning and process)
... I feel the risk that all this promise risks to go totally down the drain with the "help" from spreadsheet fanatics without the insight of truly human-side and human-centric of the process - if this "analytics game" is driven to far. I will probably have to return multi-fold with my critique at this point to give my concerns full justice and understanding on your side.
Let me just summarize, inspired by UB40 song "One in Ten".
I. Am. Not. A. Number.
- I hope you get my point... because I cannot formulate this as a one-line question at this time.
Let me end there for the moment with the first structured input I am giving in this "hotspot" of "subjects" related. A natural part two of this article series of ...X? (in perpetual beta of thinking and insight in an iterative loop driven by Crowd Wisdom) will be post-webinar.
Yes - let me return with more constructive rants and cheerful encouragements beyond the webinar, separately.
In constant flow of conversations.
OK - now what, you say? Ending? What about the third question?
Yes, of semi-patriotic reasons, but still ;).
The tools included in the plethora of metric machines provided is incomplete IMHO. It would be great to have what Twingly does overall in this area in the next edition ;).
Last question out, then -
- What qualifies to be listed in the Index and thus mentioned as a Listening/Monitoring Tool and/or Platform, for the evident 2nd Edition ;) ?
Let me end with that pre-event cliff-hanger in the intro, by sharing how the Twingly Liveboard covering the #mat2011 event turned out some 72hrs beyond that first one.
Dive into that analysis, and you see where those Social Media Dashboards can be taken at least in this context!
And why not check it out Live.
Here. And. Now :).
/From the laptop in a world in Constant Flux, yours sincerely signing off - and let's hear the webinar out now, tonight!