In Data Quality Management

Each week we present a collection of some of the best marketing tips, guides, and best practices from thought leaders around the blogosphere to help you stay informed, hone your craft, and improve your marketing efforts. This week we’re going to veer a bit from our normal format and focus on one primary post that has a bit of additional required reading. Enjoy!

Social Media Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Full disclosure – I’m a big fan of Michael Brenner. I’ve linked to his site in our Friday Wrap-Up posts more often than not, and if he’s got something to say about what’s happening in the marketing industry I tend to pay attention.

I’m going to send you down a few rabbit holes in a moment, but I think the trip is absolutely worth your time. The post with the lovely title above is actually the third in an arc about social media and how it influences purchasing decisions. The first, found on BtoB and the basis for the subsequent posts, is here. The follow-up, from Eric Wittlake at B2B Digital Marketing, is here. Finally, the last post, from B2B Marketing Insider’s veteran marketer, Michael Brenner, can be found here (again at the bottom). It’s his post that really caught my attention.

Each post focuses on the results gleaned from the “2012 Buyer Experience Study” conducted by IDC. The responses were fairly intriguing, but after reading each of the posts mentioned above I’ve got to admit that I’m a bit unclear on Brenner’s take.

He writes that he has three issues with the article. First, his post states that the results of the survey were based on the fact that, “The survey asked tech buyers to rate the relative value of information sources on their purchasing decision” (Brenner’s emphasis).

Except it didn’t.

According to BtoB, the study asked respondents how much social networks have influenced (my emphasis) how they’ve interacted with vendors and made purchase decisions. It’s that word, influence, that continues to give me pause. “Influence” covers a lot of ground, isn’t particularly quantitative, and doesn’t seem (IMHO) to indicate that a buyer is suggesting that she’s making a “hundred thousand dollar deal based on social media.”

Instead, given the question doesn’t specify the timing, “influence” seems to suggest that X percent of buyers report social media channels have had an impact on their purchase decision somewhere in the buying process. This is right in line with Brenner’s second point; although he cites a study that compares and reports the general use of social media and other online activities rather than the impact of these tools on buying behavior to make it.

Finally, Brenner’s third point that the findings can be used by “old-school marketers” as validation that social media doesn’t work, I think, misses the primary metric – 20%. To be fair, it’s actually 18.6%, but go with it for a moment. If your team identified a channel that definitively influenced or touched almost 20% of your audience (a self-identified 20%, I might add) what marketer could possibly dismiss its value?

Let me know what you think. Am I the one actually missing the point? Social Media Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics