Data-driven or human? You can be both.

Combining data and bright ideas. It can be done. Photo: screendump from crispsocial.com.

Social media managers today can be divided into two groups (roughly speaking, of course):

1. Those who stick to hard metrics and let data determine their decisions.

2. Those who trust their intuition and just go ahead and post what they feel is right.

So what group do you belong to? Well, you should belong to both.

Out of the blue comes… nothing

As written earlier, if you apply social science and the concept of ‘social creativity‘ it becomes evident that you cannot be successful in social if you cannot perform social creativity, i.e. if you’re not capable of adding something new (that’s the creative part) and value adding to the social group you’re engaging with.

However, social creativity very rarely adds value if it’s not rooted in the a firm understanding of the behaviour and history of that social group.

The conclusion?

This leads to a very clear conclusion about what social media managers should do in order to be successful:

1. Use metrics, data, theory and  knowledge to give you a firm understanding, and keep measuring so you can get even wiser down the road – but don’t use data to decide what you post, when you post it etc.

Data should be used to review the past.

2. Make sure to maintain an explorative, improvisational and authentic approach on a day-to-day basis, and try to avoid setting up very tangible, quantitative goals for the performance of your social media programme – in a social game, it’s just not right to judge a success only by the numbers.

The human touch, the intuition should guide the now, i.e. content creation and the actual posting (don’t pre-plan any posts!).

The more long-term, strategic decisions (the future) should be based on a combination of the two.

Then again…

That being said, I realise that there are quite big differences between brands and industries.

For instance, in a start-up phase in social you don’t have much data and will tend to put more weight on the explorative part.

But when quantity and data is in place, the mode will likely – or should – shift to a more data-driven approach – even on a day-to-day level (again, depending on the brand and the strategy).

Scott Stratten about Maersk Line’s social media efforts

Not the worst kind of feedback you can get. Scott Stratten heard Jay Baer’s interview with me on Convince & Convert and phoned me up to get more input because he wanted to talk about the Maersk Line case in his keynote at the B2B Marketing Forum in Amsterdam, 20 March 2012.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/39774141 w=500&h=281]

 

“Social creativity” vs. ROI: Why hard metrics don’t matter in social media

Miles Davis is a good example of social creativity. Not only was he one of the greatest improvisers in his field, he had an innate ability to reinvent himself throughout his career.

When embarking on social media most companies ask themselves: “What do we get out of this? What’s the ROI? And how do we measure it?”

While this kind of thinking seems reasonable, and quite logical too, I believe it also poses a big problem for most companies, not least B2B companies where an actual conversion is often far away.

Actually, I have reason to believe that today hard metrics are hampering at least every second B2B social media programme around the world. Why? Because hard metrics force the companies down a path that’s too rigid and focused on short-term success.

While the discussion of what success means in a social context is often neglected social media managers end up navigating according to hard metrics with limited ability to manoeuver and be creative, i.e. find new ways that add value.

Writing the script as we go along

Let’s backtrack a bit and ask ourselves what kind of rules or logic we should apply when engaging in social media: Is it business rules or social rules?

The answer is evident: Business rules don’t apply. Social media is about the users connecting, and companies rely on the users’ mercy.

So it must be social rules then, right?

No, not really. Because there are no rules for how to be social. As Darwin taught us, the world is changing constantly, and we as human beings therefore need to improvise, not least when it comes to being social.

We need to write the manuscript as we go along.

Social creativity

This goes to tell that there’s a basic creativity aspect in our lives: We’re creating the social in every now, and we need to be creative in order to be successful in social life.

Translating this into a company’s social media engagement means that creativity and ability to improvise is necessary in order to engage successfully. Plans and measurements only make sense insofar they improve our ability to perform “social creativity”.

Here, creativity doesn’t mean something strange or even mad. It’s something we all do. Creativity is when we create something new that adds value in the given situation or context.

An end in itself

You might even claim that “social creativity” is the true engine behind the progress of mankind. Our social nature and structure is what has made us successful (“we did it together”), and being social is therefore an end in itself.

In other words, the ultimate goal with any social media campaign must ‘simply’ be to create new and better ways to be social. And in that scheme of things soft (qualitative) metrics are much more valuable than the hard (quantitative) ones.

An article by J. Boye about, well, my work for Maersk Line.

Last week I was phoned up by Janus Boye who is the CEO and founder J. Boye “the international community for web & internet professionals”. In other words, a quite influential blogger on things like internet and not least social media.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that Janus is a Dane, but he had nevertheless noticed the recent success of Maersk Line within social media. And he found it to be interesting and even surprising, given the fact that Maersk Line is a B2B company in a quite conservative industry. The background being that B2B companies have struggled for years to find meaning in and reasons to engage with social media.

In a way, we in Maersk Line have somehow succeeded in paving the way for other B2B companies. Quite flattering if you think about it. And maybe stretching it a bit too far.

You can read the article Janus wrote here.

The future of social media

From the early topic-based Internet to the egocentric digital network connecting people rather than homepages. In a few words, that’s the development we’ve witnessed the past 15-20 years. But what’s next? And what if we look ten years ahead?

This can only be a game of qualified guessing. It’s a cliché… but we never know exactly what lies ahead. Or to quote Jim Morrison: “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near”. A statement you cannot argue with.

But returning to the topic of the future of social media you could say, as Austen Mayor does on socialmediatoday.com, that we’re already in the future: “social media as an industry is very well versed and experienced.”

However, there’s no doubt that we’ll see social media and web-network technologies grow immensely the next two years. There’s plenty of room for improvements and growth. Geolocation is one prominent area where we’ve only seen the beginning.

Augie Ray discusses this issue in this interesting interview:

And ten years from now?

If we look ten years ahead the way of interacting and communicating introduced by social media will be the standard. Simply because the decisions makers in societies will be part of a generation where social media is the DNA.

This also entails that technology will become more sophisticated and almost invisible.

We tend to forget it but technology is not a goal in itself, only a means to an end. And the ‘end’ is ‘the community’, i.e. a network that enables us to connect with each other in more optimal, efficient and meaningful ways.

For companies, marketers etc. this will mean a move away from ‘channel thinking’ towards ‘relationship thinking’. We’re already talking about relationship building, and has been for a number of years, but the ‘channel thinking’ is still pre-dominant. Today, it seems no one disagrees with the need for multi-channel approaches.

But the channel thinking is basically sign of us still being at a early stage of the evolution of social media. Let’s hope we can pass that stage one day not too far away.

Three stages/decades visualized

Below you find three visuals describing the three stages mentioned above.

1) The early technology-oriented and topic-centered years with homepages, AltaVista.com etc. (the 90’s)

2) Web 2.0 and the rise of  social media (the 00’s) (companies on the sideline)

3) Technology made invisible, network prevails, companies are an integrated part of the network (targeted messages, less or no mass communication) (the 10’s?)

The social media landscape 2011

A new center has formed

I just came across Fred Cavazza’s updated overview of the social media landscape. By mapping the main players in/on the field and studying user behavior across the various channels, an actual center has now formed, according to Cavazza. And in the center we find… Google and Facebook.

To most, this is probably not very surprising. However, when you think about it, his new landscape model alters our standard perception of Facebook as ‘merely’ being a place where people can connect and share details about their lives via updates, posts, likes, movies, photos etc.

Facebook is becoming more like Google. The place where you start your digital journey. A form of navigator.

A new way to navigate

Why is it so? For two reasons, I suppose. 1) Because of the sheer size of the media/network (more than 750 million users); 2) Because the users are getting more and more accustomed to navigate according to social recommendations and interactions (“my friend is doing this and that, so I will do the same and check out what this link or story is all about”).

(It’s surely not because of the search engine functionalities of Facebook. They are not worth talking about, as far as I can see. But again, that’s due to media’s dependence on its social structure.)

So the user behavior is changing towards using social recommendations as a first step.

The end of the portal?

I can understand why. Google is so objective in it’s suggestions (in spite of Adwords, SEO etc.) that you need to be pre-occupied with something in order to benefit from it. You basically need to know what you’re looking for, in advance.

However, it’s not that we don’t need Google any more. Unlike many others, I don’t see Google and Facebook as competitors.

Those who should be worried about this behavioral change driven by Facebook are portals, news sites and similar, i.e. the sites users would normally go to in order to get updated on what’s going on in the world. And in order to get entertained.

A wake-up call for B2B companies…

Moreover, this tendency should underline the importance for companies to be present on e.g. Facebook. Many companies are of course already there, but most B2B companies still continue to struggle to see why it’s relevant for them. And how they can benefit.

So here’s the answer: Facebook has become the starting point for many, many users. And it’s therefore difficult to apply a multi-channel approach without a decent Facebook Page.

Getting started

… with a starting point

I ask myself: What would be interesting to know more about? What’s going on out there that I would want to know, but don’t know yet?

And so it all begins.

Social media

Let’s start with social media. I would like to know more about the social media landscape globally. I would like to get to the bottom of this phenomenon.

First, is it a phenomenon, or is it just a name for the way digital medias are organised today, i.e. user-centric? How does the social media landscape look globally? What does it mean for our lives? And what does it truly mean in terms of the way we communicate with each other? What kind of implications does it have for companies? And where are we heading?

Based on that, it would be far easier to grasp the current state of the social media phenomenon. And to come to terms with the future developments.

That being said, the digital landscapes are characterized by their ever-changing nature. New ideas and developments happen at such a high speed that we all need to filter them in order to make some sort of sense of it.

And that’s a theme by itself: Transformation. The speed of life has increased dramatically during the past decade.

Storytelling

Eternal acceleration is of course not a universal truth. Take the area of storytelling, for example. Here, the good old discipline of telling a story that’s engaging, beautiful, erotic, humorous, exciting, scary, surprising, empathetic etc. is as promising and necessary as ever. Even though the possibilities and premises for telling a story has changed with the availability of new digital medias, techniques, equipment and ways of communicating.

So there’s still plenty to explore within the storyteller’s field.

For example: What is the key to successful online storytelling? What can we hope to achieve by telling a story? Has the anatomy of storytelling changed? Is it changing all the time, or will “the good story” remain forever young?

The answer to some of the latter questions might seem obvious, to some. And to me, I think.

But closure is a thing of the past. Today, we need to re-open all the thoughts and notions we have on a specific topic. It must change. And it does.

Maybe that’s one of the biggest achievements of the digital world. That it has emphasized the fact that nothing is dead.

We inhabit a world full of both opportunity and risk. It’s wide open.

Maybe Heidegger was right after all?