My previous post about what social media strategists can learn from archaeology made me think of another topic that affects groups: Fake findings.
In 1912, Charles Dawson claimed to have found “the missing link between ape and man.” A skull that became known as Piltdown Man was accepted as a legitimate find for nearly 40 years before scientists were able to prove it was a hoax. As an author and researcher, I wondered why someone would bother faking a discovery and how he thought he could possibly get away with it. And then I considered a few modern-day fake discoveries that made the stories seem less outrageous.
How often do marketers and business owners report false findings – either intentionally or by accident? Intentional inflation of positive marketing results is generally pretty easy to explain. It’s typically rooted in someone trying to make themselves look more effective than they are – and sadly, often times these situations emerge when people simply want to see results faster than the market can produce them. The temptation can strong to misrepresent findings, but as everyone who’s tried it will tell you, it won’t be long before you’re found out.
The accidental false interpretations are a little tougher to avoid. A spike in activity that you really want to associate with your campaign may be the result of a market change, something your competitor did, or an inexplicable fluke. A 500% increase in click-throughs may be the result of your new graphics or the change in the season. The important thing to realize is that you should celebrate successes however you get them – but research the honest cause of your success so it can support future planning. (If you’re wondering, NISM does have a code of ethics that, if violated, can cost a strategist their certification. You can read about it in the candidate handbook.)
Explanation and Replication
Getting the real answers may not be as challenging as you may think. Start with a few easy tricks:
- Explore the basics of the success – who, what, where, and when the information was shared. Something obvious may emerge right then and there.
- Look for patterns. Was there a common theme amongst the people who engaged? You can check demographics in a lot of cases, but you may also notice what people keyed in on by reading their comments.
- Try to replicate your success. If it worked once, it will often work again. If it doesn’t, examine what changed. In some instances, of course, the novelty of the material may be what makes it successful. But in other cases, an attempt to do it again (whether it’s successful or not) may help you highlight the reason for the success.
And if you’re working with others, don’t miss the opportunity to discuss your findings – including the assumptions you’re confident about and the stuff that has you completely perplexed. After all, very few breakthroughs were made by one person working in a vacuum. You’re much more likely to find success working with your community.
What systems do you have in place to help ensure you report accurate information?
Author: Amy Jauman
Dr. Amy Jauman, SMS, is the Chief Learning Officer at the National Institute for Social Media and author of the Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.