Social Research: Marketing Fluff as Facebook Cools

August 21, 2012

I read “Social Research Key Findings”. The write up summarizes research which has consumed “most of the year.” Read the original article. Judge for yourself. Is social media applied to sentiment, prediction, customer support, and the other buzzwords associated with the phrase “social media” ready for prime time. My view is that as “the end of search” approaches, vendors are scrambling to find marketing Velcro which will lead to new customers and repeat business.

The write up points out that the research was sponsored by some social media luminaries who, it appears, wanted to know what makes customers’ hearts go pitter patter. There is an interesting but almost illegible graph which runs down the survey respondents’ perception of “hindrances” to social analytics and its assorted children.

The graphed data are based on respondents’ selection of True or False. The scale is wonky, running from 0 to 250, and I am not sure if these data represent individual choices, a subset, or a normalized output. I whipped out my trusty magnifying glass and learned the following from the graph:

The respondents were roughly evenly split on True and False votes for this statement: “Not sure which business can leverage.” The respondents were in the same kettle of fish with regard to “Legal Issues, Security issues, the benefits, and fear of negative impacts.

It sure looked to me as if the majority of respondents agreed that their information technology departments were not a hindrance to social media. Company culture also seems not to be a particular barrier.

The article explains the key findings with nine observations. Let me highlight four findings which I found interesting. You will need to consult the original article to get the full payload from the research.

Allegedly the research supports the statement: “It’s still an early market.” My view is that the dismal performance of Facebook’s initial public offering indicates that social fatigue has set in. Social research is not silver bullet. Customers still want to talk to an informed human. Predictive analytics still cannot pick winners in horse races. Sentiment analysis does little more than flag email with inflammatory language. The ClearForest warranty process works, but it is expensive and depended on rules. Rules were expensive to maintain. In large systems with dynamic content, the fancy math helps but it does not deliver results commensurate with the marketers’ promises. Big surprise? Nope.

A second finding is encapsulated in the statement: “It should not be surprising that video and picture sharing are among the top social media.” The only problem is that understanding the content of videos and pictures is a tough computational problem. Pump through a day of YouTube content and you have a system which is expensive to build, maintain, and scale. In short, words are a very difficult problem. Words have not yet been cracked. The social audio and video is an even more difficult problem. Opportunities? Yes. Solutions for a cash strapped enterprise? Not yet, gentle reader.

A third finding is summarized in this way: “Marketing and service have more uses for social media than does sales, so far.” My interpretation: Pumping out big bucks to analyze social media does not generate revenue. My view is that social research boils down to tracking what individuals do. Even with large amounts of data, the social researchers are not able to hook the data, their analyses, and their services to generating revenue for the licensees. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies, in my opinion, remain juicy prospects. The tire company or the waste disposal business may not buy or even sit through a webinar.

The final finding which caught my attention was “Content is king.” I don’t know what this means. The article explains:

Ranking the three major social media for usefulness, Twitter is first followed by Facebook and then LinkedIn.  Interestingly, corporate blogs and product/service blogs are rated higher than the top three services indicating that people want specific content and they are not put off by content size or the time it might take to read or view it.  So the three popular social tools might help get the conversation started but successful companies will quickly discover that they need more content for follow up.  Our CRM Idol experience this year confirms this point: we are seeing a larger-than-normal number of vendors focused on content creation, tracking, and management.

If this makes sense to you, then get out your purchase order form. The sponsors are ready to rumble.

Stephen E Arnold, August 21, 2012

Sponsored by Augmentext


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