Number blindness in social media

“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers”
Plato

Those briefing in expected figures for results for social media campaigns might as well admit they have no clue. No, seriously, having to watch marketeers, lemming-like, pick numbers out the air for expected likes, interactions, retweets etc is becoming painful.

My issue isn’t the picking the numbers out the air so much, as we are all learning in this field, more the inability to recognise the basic psychological principles at play:  irrationality and anchoring, trumping frankness and collaboration.

Anchoring being the theory that when you are not sure of the answer to something you will let any suggestion (however irrational) massively influence your answer.

So if I ask you: How many top-forty records has Elton John released – more than 120,045 or less than 120,045? Now give your estimate of the number of top-forty Elton John records. 

These numbers are bonkers! Even though you know there can’t be anything like that many records, the numeric suggestion will influence you into making a much higher suggestion than you otherwise would have, even though the answer is nothing like as high as 120,045, only being 56.

Marketeers are doing this everyday when briefing-in agencies.

Marketeer Joe Shmo attends a conference that is worth a few thousand pounds and reveals very little, but there he hears a Skittles case study that says that they gained 18 million likes.  The anchoring has occurred, the marketeer has a figure in his mind now for any social media campaign.  So he leaves the conference, walks into his agency and say that for his fledgling Facebook activity in the year ahead, it will not be considered a success unless it receives at least 9 million likes.  He think this ability to produce a figure makes him look in control, knowledgeable, visionary, analytical.  More often it,  makes Joe Shmo look ridiculous.

Every client who has presented me with a stupidly low or stupidly high expected results figure is 100% of the time doing so because they have based their figure on someone else’s results … produced under different criteria, for different reasons, over different durations.  Marketeers need to do three things to avoid falling into this little hole of craziness:

1) Read Priceless: The Hidden Psychology of Value

2) Experiment with numerous social media campaigns, so that by the time they demand or are setting results, they are doing so from your own personal knowledge base – not some other marketeers on a different project, for a different brand!

3) Recognise that other people’s social media results should mean nothing to them, what they should be looking forensically at is other brand’s useful methodologies and techniques that lead to any form of valuable outcomes

4) Discuss results with their agency, getting their suggestions, before passing any figures up the chain of command internally

The fact is there is no short cuts to experience-based knowledge, and those with the most power in terms of setting briefs and results expectations help no one if they are simply leveraging ignorance.

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