Its 2012...and frankly it is starting to move very quickly. We are almost finished the 1st quarter of the year. As I am now entrenched in the maturation of a new marketplace (not only the creation of social media but the usage of it for running the business), I am starting to think about what key factors will drive the success or failure of those trying to help companies successfully use the data to their advantage.
There is an ongoing battle that is being debated one company at a time. It is this...what is the best way to tap into what I fondly refer to as THE CROWD? This is using all the social media data available to understand consumers in their new natural habitat. The questions that are troubling everyone at this point in the debate is the following
1. How much data is enough to make decisions?
2. What are the metrics that will help you measure its impact?
3. Can you trust the dataset that is being created on the web?
4. Can I trust the content?
5. Is is getting the best quality data more important that getting all the data to make decisions?
This is essentially the PRECISION versus RECALL debate.
Precision by definition is getting the most accurate data to make decisions. Recall is not missing a single piece of data when deciding what to do. It is a dicussion that has been going on over the last 24 months.
As a member of the precision camp for more than 5 years, I have defended the following concept for a long time. I used to say what is key is being able to collect the right data set the same way everytime to make sure that you are comparing apples to apples with every study you do. Call it the way of the scientist (which I am) because I have been trained to carefully manage variables to make sure that only the right study is done. With only the best data, I have argued that you can do your work to understand consumers in the social media sphere. I have championed that it takes many measure like the ones I have access to to be able to really create meaningful business knowledge and metrics (that is buzz, sentiment and passion data). The whole time I have been able to very easily prove time and time again, that I can develop insights and create social media theories that will push the envelope.
I am here to say that I have been wrong...dead wrong.
In the last 3 months, I have been able to learn something critical to success of any social media program. In order to make the shift across the enterprise, it takes BOTH precision (my camp) and recall (the other camp) to really tell the complete story for the business.
1. Recall is critical to surface issues being discussed acros social media. I have had some experiences with some methodologies (can't discuss today or yet) that are showing me recall type measurements are outstanding and way more senitive for surfacing an issue. If you can grab the key discussion points from all that is being said, you will get to the what more effectively.
2. Precision helps you understand why. I have one customer who I work with that has shown me how they help their constitutents understand what consumers are saying online about their brands. What I learned is this, they cannot get the depth of insight they need from simple recall. Recall is the fluff and precision represents the depth in studying consumers online.
3. Both precision and recall will be the key to unlocking one's ability to measure the ROI from social media. What do I mean by this? Anyone who has spent their time trying to figure out this problem gets too stuck creating data breakdowns that lead down the path of someone asking them so what. The reality and the next big thing in social media validation is going to come from leveraging the speed at which data can be collected (the buzz, the sentiment and the passion...the recall and precision) will be mixed with the data that companies trust.
The fight over how to best leverage social media data to run the business has been always founded in what I consider a culture change. Even when you steadily prove what it can do, there is someone who is always skeptical of what you did. This is the nature of culture battles. Social media analytics has always been asking people to use new methods but also to use a new set of data. To best overcome the changes needed by the organization, those interested in proving its worth will need a way to mix what is trusted and what is new.
Precision and recall will be the path to success. Mixing all the data (so those wondering if they are missing something can be appeased) with the most accurate ways to measure consumers' opinions is the first step. The second is building trust by making sure measures (sales, units, margin...etc that are near and dear to their risk adverse hearts is part of the solution not an old friend to be cast away for some thing new an better.
That is all I have to say now...but stay tuned here to the proof in the pudding...
I will go Social Medieval on this point soon...