Correlation and Causation In Social Media
Today I made my first sale that I'm almost sure came as a result of something I said on social media. Almost sure. It took about 2 years.
Yesterday I "reviewed" one of my site pages on StumbleUpon (I know, tacky) related to a tool for small business owners to help them train their staff. Kind of a quick guide for non-trainers. Today, or actually, a few hours later, I sold one. I don't sell many of them. Consequently I'm pretty sure, I made that sale happen from the social media thing.
I did something. Someone bought something related to what I did, within a very short period of time. There you go. Ten bucks to me, Mr. Humphreys (cute reference to Brit TV show, Are You Being Served), and social media shows it's Popeye power.
Errr...well not. That's an example of correlation, two events that occurred together. Causation is different, because it ties one event to the other as in, the cause of the sale was my participation in social media. It's easy to show correlation. Events occur in similar time spaces all the time, but that doesn't mean one causes the other. Two events can be correlated (such as my waking up and the sun rising) without either causing the other.
In the newly published "Giving the Business To Social Media Research", I point out that this error, confusing causation and correlation occurs almost regularly in the claims and research of social media. There is almost NO direct research evidence that what a company does on social media will cause sales, or cause bigger profits. I know that seems odd, but it is the case. No doubt there are a very few exceptions, but you know, exception proves the rule.
If you are involved in, or want to involve your business in social media you need to be vigilant about distinguishing cause and correlation, because we are actually hard wired to err on the side of causation, as a result of this helping us to survive as a species.
So, I'm off to review all my product pages on StumbleUpon, because surely I will sell many more because I caused the first sale? Nuh, Uh.