“Utter bullocks”

I’m amused by this expression used in a comment on a RWW post titled: Study: 93% of Americans Want Companies to Have Presence on Social Media Sites.

I also believe it’s the perfect response to the report of this study, as presented in the RWW post. I don’t know, the study might be brilliant. But that’s the problem, they don’t provide enough information so I can decide if it’s brilliant or not.

Two issues here:

1) understand the data before you make decisions based on it

2) even if the data is good & valid, don’t jump in and make decisions based only on statistics & demographics

1) understand the data before you make decisions based on it

Some questions to ask about these particular results:

  • who are the 93% of Americans? There aren’t that many Americans online in the first place!!! (P.S.: cultural sensitivity issue: “America” includes Canda, and South American countries. Do you mean U.S. residents?)
  • they probably mean 93% of survey respondents, I guess (guessing = bad sign in research)
  • who are the survey respondents? Provide information about the sample:

These are just a few things I’d like to know before I’d spend a dime on a “social media presence”. And, as RWW writer Frederic L. points out, which social media sites? Twitter and Facebook are so different they might as well be two foreign countries!

2) even if the data is good & valid, don’t jump in and make decisions based only on statistics & demographics

My social media mantra is: It’s not about technology, it’s about culture.

Culture (social norms, etiquette, communication practices) emerges quickly around a social medium, and is specific not only to that medium, but also to sub-groups of users. So you can assume there are hundreds if not thousands sub-cultures on Facebook alone (about 100 million users worldwide).

An example: Befriending someone you haven’t met before is perfectly acceptable on Twitter, but creepy on Facebook.

So think about social media as a continent with many different countries and cultures. If you were to go to Romania (my native country), would you start doing PR & marketing armed with just some demographics produced by a poorly designed research study? I certainly hope not! I hope you’d take some time (a couple of years, say) to begin to get a grasp of Romanian culture before you dive in.

Same goes with social media. Start with your surveys, and make sure you understand what a good survey is. But do some ethnographic research, too (focus groups will do) before you spend that dime on your “social media presence.”

P.S.

Since I’m ranting, let me point out that the phrase “social media presence” is also … (see post’s title). It’s not about presence, it’s about engagement & conversation.

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