Social media monitoring: absolutely pointless

Social media monitoring is a complete waste of resources. Total waste of money, time and understanding. Yep. You know why?

I’m guessing by now you’re either really intrigued or really angry. Hopefully both.

Social media monitoring is completely useless without context or clear outputs.

What are outputs? Your next steps once you capture something.

What is context? Context means understanding the data, turning data to information. Something meaningless to something useful.

Please read on, let me elaborate.

Let’s take an example: you’re on the board of BRAND Z, you decide that after fifteen years of traditional activity you should probably look into social media, but where do we start?! ARRGGHHH!!! TOO MUCH INFORMATION??!!!

*ring ring*

“Oh, hello social media monitoring service! You only charge £7 a month? And I get shiny graphs?! Where do I sign?!!!”.

Here’s why I’m so irked.

(Now my next point is going to irritate you if you’ve read a few of my last posts because it was born from the Nassim Nicholas Taleb book Fooled by Randomness. Which I appear to quote for everything. Even in Tesco.)

Fooled by Randomness is largely about the unpredictable being predicted and the uselessness of models, and Taleb’s context is the financial markets. Which doesn’t sound too transferable to ‘digital’ but a few chapters in he begins to discuss the probability of successful analysis at different rates for monitoring share price and how minute changes shouldn’t effect your overall view of the investment opportunity – basically, always take a long view on big issues.
Think about this in terms of a boat on the waves, just because it’s at the bottom of a wave doesn’t mean it’s going to sink.

So Taleb then pulls together a probability of success at different rates table;

One year – 93% probability of successful analysis
One quarter – 77% probability of successful analysis
One month – 67% probability of successful analysis
One day – 54% probability of successful analysis
One hour – 51% probability of successful analysis
One minute – 50.17% probability of successful analysis
One second – 50.02% probability of successful analysis

The point that he’s trying to make is that people are effected too much by minute by minute changes and cannot comprehend the bigger picture. The same can be said for monitoring; of course it’s important to look at ‘real time’ alerts and understand what’s being said, but it’s much more important to understand how this fits into the wider context.

If you cherry pick blog posts about BRAND Z without giving them context you’ll have an almost completely random view of the brand – monitor every blog post and hold monthly reviews and you’ll begin to gather insight, do this for a year and you’ll have a much more clear idea about your reputation online.

The point of this post is not to make you angry, but to highlight that monitoring only works if two criteria are fulfilled;

a) There are a set of clear next steps to take – listening is fine if you know how (or if) to react

b) Always look at the macro, not the micro and always, always, ALWAYS give your monitoring context

I know this is quite a long, ranty post, but if we’re to move the ‘digital’ industry along we need to be be more intelligent about this stuff.

This is a cross post from Wolfstar’s Jed Hallam’s blog. You can follow him on Twitter here.