Giving The Business To Social Media Research ( Book Excerpt)
The following is a short excerpt from a Chapter entitled Giving The Business To Social Media Research, which will eventually appear in our new book, Giving the Business To Social Media -- Hope, Hype, Reality. The full information on social media research and its flaws can be purchased in Kindle format (but readable on any device, including your computers) by going to amazon. Price is $3.49. This is a MUST read if you are using social media research to make business decisions.
Oh Those Damned Numbers
Bad Data, Bad Interpretations, Bad Decisions
What’s your motivation for considering using or using social media for your business? Does it have to do with some of the numbers you have heard?
For example, have you heard that there are 160 million people using Twitter? Or 500 million people using Facebook? Those are truly amazing numbers and have stimulated some to talk about the Twitter Nation or the Facebook Nation because the population of these social media platforms is larger than many of the countries on the planet. Numbers like that suggest there’s a huge pool of customers on which to draw.
Now, what would your reaction be if a veteran social science researcher, statistician, long time education research journal board member, and former research professional said: “These numbers are hype, junk science, or otherwise meaningless. In fact, most of the research and numbers reported, regardless of where you read them, are hype, junk science, and also otherwise meaningless.”
Well, that’s me. That’s what I’m saying. The research is badly flawed. More often than not it’s also misinterpreted to support the value of social media or to otherwise encourage businesses to “get with the program”. It’s misleading, and it’s “hyperbolized”. It’s used as hype.
This puts you in an awkward position, because the torrent of positive numbers may be coming via sources you see as credible, like the New York Times or network television. You trust them, at least to some degree.
Then there’s the issue of pervasiveness. You hear these numbers over and over again, from varying sources and despite the fact that often the numbers aren’t even identical the message gets through. Your business has to “be there”. Sadly, when numbers and hype are repeated enough, they become accepted as truth.
Why should you believe a stranger (me)? You shouldn’t. You should apply your own ability to look at numbers and your ability to use basic logic. Couple that with some help with how research is done and should be done and you will be able to critically assess the validity and usefulness of research findings and their accompanying statistics. That translates into better business decision making for you.
You can learn to ask the right questions. For example:
- Are the claims exaggerated?
- Are there logical or procedural errors in the reports or research?
- Is the data properly collected?
- Can I generalize from the numbers to MY situation?
- Are there hidden motives for those creating the numbers to deceive, intentionally, or accidentally out of ignorance.
- Am I guarding against the effects of hope (wishful thinking)? How about the researchers?
YOU are the only one who can decide whether the research and “facts” are accurate, sensible, logical, and above all relevant to your decision making about social media. Here’s a very short primer on social science research. Honest. Short. Then we'll examine the social media research.