Is Social Media making us less objective?
When we collect data for analysis, we use methods that are not completely open; our questions in surveys and interviews assume a certain business model behind them. We can attempt to collect data that is representative, balanced and complete.
When we switch from asking to listening (in Social Media channels), we lose some of control over the data gathering process and the risk is that the data we collect is less objective.
Are business decisions made on anecdotal evidence or objective analysis?
Most people in business were trained as analysts and strive to make decisions based on objective information. We understand the limitations of business modeling, but diligently attempt to apply it to every aspect of what we do.
But most people don’t make strategic decisions every day and the truth is that the leaders doing it work mostly off anecdotal information. The CEO visits two customers (out of thousands) and they both say the same thing, creating an insight. The VP meets someone at a party, just a day before that important meeting. Executives don’t get all data and receive influence from internal and external analysts.
Serendipity, coincidence, social factors are really what trigger the insight behind new ideas and decisions in business.
Analysis is the filter, not the source of business decisions
That doesn’t mean analysis is less important. Once an idea emerges from insight, analysis must be used to validate or to kill them. This is what happens in most companies, even when we play the theater where ideas are presented as if it came from an analytical process.
It should not be surprising. The scientific method is also about using insight to propose a theory and then use analytical experiments to collect supporting data to validate or invalidate it.
What is the role of Social Media in data gathering?
So, our ideation and decision-making process has those two sides (synthesis/insights, analysis/validation).
If we understand the nature of Social Media, we don’t need to be afraid that the shift towards it as a communication channel will make our analysis less objective.
Social Media, besides being the main channel for customer engagement in the future, like meeting face-to-face, is naturally a good place to collect anecdotal evidence, customer stories, outside perspective.
Can it also be source of objective data? Not today. Population coverage (Social Media is still fully adopted by a small portion of the customer base in most businesses), data structure are open issues that need to be addressed in the future.