Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The social media speed of insight - Better get on the bus

I mentioned in my last post from the conference I attended how people even within the market research field know the importance of the change social media will bring (change more the operative word for me), yet their is a lack of trust and therefore a lack of adoption of this data except for the innovators and early adopters.

I thought I would put in an even more granular perspective as to why corporate culture must get its head around and ahead (pun intended) of what is coming.  The real issue I have been hearing in my discussion with those who track consumer behavior is there lack of trust in social media for several reasons

1.  Who creates the data - This is a big one.  People will acknowledge that there is no question the social graph is normalizing, but there is still a huge question of whether the total numbers of consumers are "representative".  And by respresentative I mean how CPG and large marketing/market research functions segment their consumers.  In my experience, most big companies study their core consumers and segment/name them as a means of figuring out who their brand really targets.  These groups are often very specific from a demographic perspective giving them the target they need.  As for social media and the social graph, because no one has done a great job of being able to break down the data in this way, people are skeptical of how to link this data to that way of thinking.  They also don't trust who puts the research on the web.  Many have questioned if it is being influenced by the companies who market online.  There are other issues with who creates it, but you get the idea.

2.  The data's accuracy - This one is obvious and even those not in the field worry about this.  It is accurate? how can I trust it?   I will come back to it, because this is the fundamental problem that could spell big companies' doom.  This is what I consider the most cyclical of issues in social media. And those who get caught in the tornado can't get out...I fear for them.

3.  How do I quantify?  I am a scientist (I have a PhD in Chemistry and I play a market researcher on TV) DNA is embedded with the need to quantify things (even if it is isn't in my profile...I hate details and love concepts).  Even with my aversion of details, I still believe completely in the need to control your studies in a way that comparisons can be made accurately.  I am looser than your average scientist because I like thinking about change and big idea, but regardless I appreciate the need for quantification when making statements about data.  And when it comes to consumers, the variety of the human dynamic, makes it even harder to quantify and then correlate information.

4.  The boss didn't tell me to - This is the lamest and unfortunately the buddy of the other three.  Fearing for one's job by taking a risk is the worst reason not to do things.  It is how companies live and die.  Only through the passion of its people will companies recognize change when it is coming.  I am not even going out on a limb that while this is number 4 on the list, the chasm between a marketer or market researchers behavior as a consumer (they use the internet...see the last post) and their behavior as a professional (they don't trust it) makes this the scariest of reason why the social media speed of insight could swallow them whole.

Regardless of whether these are good or bad reasons for not adopting change (and in this case the change is social media data to drive the business), they are real and I see them everyday as I work with many people across many organizations at many levels. Now to my point and the thing I want anyone who reads this to think about.

One of the great hindraces in the outstanding minds in the market research firms is speed.  Market researches love to quantify and make sure they have their i's dotted and t's crossed.  This thinking is something that can hinder the accpetance of social media.  Actually it makes sense.  That being said...

The speed at which the data is developed is accelerating so fast and vast that if you cannot understand how to process it and understand it, it could change an hour later causing you to make a mistake in your interpretation.  Once more, this data is competely public and spreadable in the flash of a second.  Case in point, within 15 hours everyone was aware that a man in Pakistan named Sohaib Athar had not only tweeted that Osama Bin Laden was dead, but they knew he was doing it without knowing it.   This news spread worldwide in less than a day.  In fact, the day that Osama Bin Laden was killed, if you searched on NetBase product the term Obama you would see the data more than double every hour of the day until it reached millions of sound bites by the end of it. research will eventually live in a world where quali quant might have to be good enough or at least until the technology can track it quickly and efficiently.  But for now...we may have to throw out how we think about things...

If you are getting caught up some of the reasons social media is not viable think about the consequences.  If you don't get on board to do the following:

1.  What is my social media strategy?
2.  What is the suite of tools I need to monitor, understand and respond to social media?
3.  What resources will I assign to understand and deal with social media?
4.  What external sources/partners will help me break it down, understand it, react to it and plan for it?

These things take time and money in any company and in a big one this could easily take 18 months to get through.  So if you haven't started, don't trust it and still have leaders afraid of it you are losing ground on those who have started, trust it and have leaders that aren't afraid of it.  And every second you keep thinking about what to do those who already know are only gaining more ground on you.

It is time to cross the chasm because between the public nature of social media, the volume it creates and the speed at which it can affect you, the time is coming where those who are on board will be unable to compete.

Good luck moving the mountain because if you are reading this and nodding your head, then you are a change agent, champion or expert and you may have an uphill battle to face.  Drop me a line if you want a partner in crime!

Let's get this party started right!  wOOt!

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