Mind Social Media – Don’t Mine It

ForeSee President & CEO Larry Freed

By Larry Freed

Every once in a while we hear about how mining social media is the best new way to gain feedback. This Marketing Daily article with a sensational (not in a good way) headline, “Goodbye To Surveys For Companies That Mine Social,” by Karl Greenberg is a good example.

In the article, social media research firm newBrandAnalytics says “surveys are defunct…companies get a 25% increase in online customer reviews on their social sites.” While there may be a bump in customer reviews due to social media, that doesn’t mean it’s time to throw everything else out the window.

It’s time to take off the rose-colored glasses and take a good look at feedback and see it for what it really is – a very small piece of a much larger puzzle. This goes back to the Feedback vs. Measurement argument that can be found right here in the pages of this blog. And social feedback isn’t any different than any other kind of feedback and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Customer Feedback Don't Listen to Squeaky WheelsThe problem with opt-in feedback devices such as customer reviews and social media pages is that you typically hear from either customers who are pure loyalists (where the company can do no wrong), or, at the other end of the spectrum, those who had a completely miserable experience with the company. These are the squeaky wheels, if you will. Very rarely do hear from the silent majority – the biggest portion of your customer base.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for feedback…it’s just not in the boardroom where game-changing decision are made.  It’s difficult to steer a shopping cart that has a wobbly, squeaky wheel, right? So why should you use feedback to steer your decision making?

You might be thinking that I’m defending surveys because you think ForeSee is a survey company. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not defending surveys – there are more bad surveys out there than good, and companies need to be aware of that. Furthermore, ForeSee is a technology company that uses a proven and successful methodology to measure the customer experience. Surveys just happen to be one of the tools it uses.

And these aren’t simple surveys. ForeSee uses random intercept surveys backed by a patented, scientific methodology to view the experience through the eyes of the customer. All of them.

This is a technology that really entrenches itself in the customer experience (be it web, mobile, social media, etc.) allowing company leaders to better understand their customers – that middle core that goes unheard most of the time through opt-in devices.

So, feel free to mind social media because there is some useful information to be found there. But, by no means should you mine it to the point where you think you can base strategic, tactical, or operational business decisions on it.

Feedback alone can misguide you and will eventually lead you down the wrong path. So, use social feedback to supplement, not supplant.

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3 Responses to Mind Social Media – Don’t Mine It

  1. John Galt says:

    This could not be further from the truth. There are plenty of use cases which apply directly to using social analytics. Campaign Management Effectiveness, Product Improvements/Enhancements, Category Analysis, and even tracking ingredients before they go viral and cause a major PR crisis that can cost a company millions. You can’t track that via survey because no one is asking those questions and feedback is exactly what you say it is, a small sample that cannot look at emerging topics as quickly as “mining” social. Also social analytics is real-time, latency is less then 10 seconds. How did Oreo create a quick and insightful marketing ad via the Super Bowl when the lights went out? I will take the sample size of the entire social web versus opt ins, any day and many companies are finding more and more use cases to apply social daily. Karl is right.

  2. Larry Freed says:

    John, thanks for your comment.

    There are plenty of use cases for using social analytics. All feedback has value, The point I am trying to make is social feedback and sentiment is not going to replace customer experience measurement. In fact, at ForeSee when we are measuring cusotmer experience we go to great lenghts to make sure we are getting an audience representative of their entire customer base. Direct feedback to a company is most often extreme negative with some very positive comments and almost nothing in between. Social feedback is most often extremely positive with some very negative comments and almost nothing in between. You don’t often see a post or tweet that says “had a pretty good expereince at company x, will likely go back”. When done right, customer experience measurement gets a representative sample of customers across the spectrum of customers. We monitor and test this across the millions of surveys we collect every month to measure the custome experience.

    Both the extreme feedback and the representative measurement have value to organizations.

    Now lets talk about Oreo’s, one of my favorites. They were masterful in utilizing social media as an advertising vehicle as the lights went out at the super bowl. However, they weren’t measuring the customer experience people were having as they itneracted with Nabisco or Oreo. They were using social media as a marketing vehicle. Sometimes the marketing voice and the true social/viral voice can get mixed together.

    You compare the “entire social web” to “opt ins”. I think they are very close to each other. Our approach of gathering feedback on the customer experience mitigates a lot of the challenges of social and opt-in feedback and gets us the represented sample and distribution of responses that is critical for a reliable measurement.

    Bottom line, there in no single way to get feedback. The key is understanding what role each mechanism plays and using them the right way.

    On a lighter note, i hope you are rooting for the University of Michigan Wolverines this weekend in the NCAA Final Four. I know i am. Hopefully you had them in your bracket and not Patrick Henry University.

    Thanks again for the comment!

    • John Galt says:

      Mr. Freed your comment, “You compare the “entire social web” to “opt ins”. I think they are very close to each other.” I disagree. When I can pull statistics from targeted demographics around my customer and potential customer vs. consumers who are opting in on my website to take a survey its completely different. Also you are missing the voice of the customer who doesn’t opt in. In social I can recover a consumers complaining about my products, I can engage directly with a consumer who is “researching” my product vs a competitor and with the Oreo example I can amplify the effectiveness to drive higher sentiment and engagement with my brand.

      Also using many social solutions the majority of comments are neutral when people are discussing brands. Perhaps using a social solution will give you a more well-rounded viewpoint of the differences and similarities of the solution.

      Today you can do sophisticated searches with social to bubble up. “will buy”, “just bought” , “am purchasing”, “just left” and use the brand as a topic creator to see where the conversation is. You can also use street level geo-location to find out where this person is and who they are. Can you do that with Foresee?

      And on the topic of Michigan. I did not have them in my bracket, in fact I am an Ohio State fan. :)