I had a great 2 days with the gang from Compete at their DigitalCMO Summit in New Orleans. I delivered a session on the CMO's Dilemma in 2011 (i.e. the 7 key issues that stand in the way of senior marcom leaders ability to budget or scope their investment in social media properly . Almost all of the other sessions focused on other aspects of digital marketing with a heavy emphasis on metrics, evaluation and data. There was a lot of healthy discussion about how best to connect different data streams either to better understand how marketing was working or to deliver increasingly personal and/or relevant content and experience to people.
One of the persistent themes was, of course, test and learn. Many speakers talked about how diagnostic metrics frequently revealed that expected results were anything but and that only careful measurement revealed the truth. Common sense often did not pan out.
Common Sense: Trust But Verify
This week, Duncan Watts will be keynoting at the Word of Mouth Marketing's School of WOM event. Sadly, I was scheduled to interview Duncan on the big stage but had to relinquish that role to the talented Virginia Miracle. Duncan will be talking about his book, Everthing is Obvious, which is a great read and, in my simple opinion, a warning against relying on common sense.
"The paradox of common sense, therefore, is that even as it helps us make sense of the world, it can actively undermine our ability to understand it."
Strictly speaking, it is not a marketing book. Still, it has a lot of thoughtful challenges to the way we view marketing and the emergent world of word of mouth and social media marketing. One of the key points that Duncan will likely delve into and one that drives some of the core members at WOMMA nuts, is his challenge that influencers can really be effectively engaged to spread word of mouth. Whether they really exist or can be identified is one thing. Whether they can be used in a marketing program at some level of acceptable efficiency is another. Duncan is more of a network guy vs. an influencer guy.
He will challenge everyone's sensibility that we can actually manage word of mouth programs.
"In place of observing inﬂuence directly, therefore, researchers have proposed numerous proxies for inﬂuence, such as how many friends an individual has, or how many opinions they voice, or how expert or passionate they are about a topic, or how highly they score on some personality test— things that are easier to measure than inﬂ uence itself. Unfortunately, while all these measures are plausible substitutes for inﬂuence, they all derive from assumptions about how people are inﬂuenced, and no one has ever tested these assumptions. In practice, therefore, nobody really knows who is an inﬂuencer and who isn’t"
Time for Test and Learn
We may think we know how word of mouth and influence works. The only way to know for sure is to do the research to find out. I argue in favor of a test and learn model of gaining that understanding vs. waiting for the magic academic study to be funded and then find its way into the journals. That means that each of us adopt a disciplined approach to metrics and compare the impact of our social programs against it to find what really drives people to action.
Sounds like common sense, I guess.