Taking Social Media to the Next Level: Black Belts Required
Well over a year ago, I made the spectacularly unsexy decision that Kane Consulting should get really good at social media analysis and measurement and tying those things to social strategy.
In the midst of all the, “You…Yes YOU can have a Fan Page too!” mania, I kept coming back to the fact that the social media hype would eventually wear off (although I’m not sure it has yet) and people would turn around and say, “Okay, now how do we make money with this?” and most of the gurus wouldn’t be able to tell them.
So, we set out to be the ones who could.
We went to training sessions and read books and blogs and Kary tested a ton of measurement tools (she’s at the Radian6 User Conference this week in fact, presenting a session and cramming in more knowledge on the subject).
And then we applied what we learned to dozens of projects over the past year and gave our clients great data and great strategies from which they saw an immediate response, though not always an immediate return.
Recently though, we’ve been having some major breakthroughs on this stuff, and I’m coming to the realization that, until now, while our stuff has been good, we’ve probably been playing in the junior leagues (which is okay, since most of our competitors aren’t even in the game at all).
Correct is not the same thing as right.
When I was a martial artist, I had the experience a number of times where, even though I was a black belt and I’d been doing a move for years, my grandmaster would show me something about it and I’d have this face-whack of a moment where I’d think, “Ahhh…NOW I get it. Oh man, there is so much to learn here.”
What I’d been doing up until then wasn’t wrong, per se. The move was technically correct, but it wasn’t right — it didn’t sit well in the context of the form, I had to work too hard to pull it off, or it unknowingly played to my weaknesses instead of my strengths.
That’s kind of how it works with social media too.
For example, here is a pretty solid goal, strategy and plan for measurement:
The client’s goal is to increase their brand presence among [fill in the blank audience segments.] Those audiences, according to the research, like to tweet and they like to talk about [fill in the blank topics]. Thus, our recommendation is for the client to incorporate this [fill in the blank with details] Twitter strategy. And they will know that it is working because they’re follower count will go up, which will indicate that their brand presence has increased.
There is nothing wrong with this plan of action. It’s correct and it makes sense (and if you’re working with a firm or consultant who cannot even provide you with this much of a framework for your company’s social media, you should fire them.)
But the plan above isn’t quite right yet. It’s full of holes and assumptions and lacks teeth. And it’s taken us a year to wrap our brain around how to take a framework like this one and take it to another level (and, quite frankly, we’ve made mistakes and learned amply from them along the way.)
More is not the same thing as better.
We’ve also learned that you can take piles and piles of reports and throw them at a framework like the one above and that won’t make it right either (and, as I mentioned in a recent post, it’s tempting to want to do so, because there are just oodles of metrics to be had out there).
All the reports in the world aren’t going to help you if you are fundamentally lacking an understanding of how social media works and how people behave – if you are unable to draw a through-line from goal to analytics to strategy to benchmarks and back to a goal and create a cyclical information ecosystem.
There have been some great blog posts written about this recently following SalesForce’s acquisition of Radian6. Okay, so now more people will have access to more data. Is that a good thing for analytics or a bad thing?
All we know is that it’s a complicated thing. And it’s not going to become less complicated anytime soon.
In the end, I’m happy we decided to get a leg up on this early. I still believe that the ability to better tie analytics to strategy is the next evolution of social media. And, after a year of intensive experience working with our clients, we’ve gotten wicked good at it…though I’d hardly call us social media gurus, rockstars, ninjas or mavens.
Like a martial artist, we are simply instructors — but not yet masters — with moves that are strong, effective, efficient and very, very correct.
Now we’re on a quest to make them right.
Nice post, Jen. It’s a refreshing change of pace to see an agency leader talk about how much more must be done to understand social media and how to measure it rather than professing to know it all.
What do you think… is fully understanding social media a finite destination that we’re slowly approaching or is it more of a Socratic thing where the journey to understand is more important than the destination itself?
Hands down, I’d say the later. Whenever I think know what I’m doing, I inevitably will log to find a slew of news reports and blog posts notifying me that things just changed again (I mean, I’d be worried if anyone even professes to have a totally understanding of Facebook, that sucker changes constantly) and, in doing so, puts all that I know into an altered context. Or, for instance, the last month, I’ve been swamped, applying what I’ve learned to actual client work. The result? I’m super behind on all the latest news about the next new thing that should be incorporated into the client work.
So I’ve had to teach myself to let some of the “knowing” part go. It’s a little zen, but if I just sit in it and accept that my interaction, when going solely on instinct, will be both right sometimes and wrong sometimes, it makes it easier. I just tell clients, “I don’t always know the answer. But I can learn what the right answer should be, really, really fast” 🙂
I like your style, Jen Kane. Have a great day!
I’m rather fond of yours too 🙂 Thanks.
We should sit down sometime and I can walk you through a process that can take the strategy and planning of goals, objectives and metics down to the scenarios, requirements, processes, and UI’s associated with execution and operations. The process I have used for 10 years keeps information organized, connected, codeable, testable, and trainable for all levels of business and technology.
I do believe I written a post about this or it is sitting in my draft bucket….
And anything to get to chat with you and Kary would be awesome!
We should. While I know all this is totally good to know, it does make me feel a little like I did in high school going to math class. It totally makes my brain hurt. Thank God Kary loves data so much.
Ok…this is SO why I tapped you to be the Social Media Advisor for Next Stage Business Radio. With the everchanging landscape that is social, it’s so important to gain an all around understanding, but also be adult and frank enough to know that NO ONE can be the do all, end all, of this world. I love that you are so in tune to the measurement side. It compliments my warm, fuzzy relationship side:-) Can’t wait for our Facebook convo on Mon 4/11 on the radio show. 🙂 Nice post~as always!