Ryan asked at Social Media Marketing World for cases where data goes against intuition:
This is a great question, and there are plenty of examples.
Intuition often says that people with the biggest audiences are the most influential. That’s not borne out in the data. There are certainly loud people, but there are also the precursors to the loud people. If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, in which he references Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen, we often think of Salesmen when we’re talking influence. The reality is that if you can get to the connectors or even the mavens, you can multiply your impact. This is borne out when you start mapping social graphs and find that the people who span multiple communities aren’t necessarily the loudest mouths.
New and Returning Users
One of the worst analytical measures in web analysis is examining new vs. returning users as a percentage. People ask what the ideal ratio is. There’s a sense that it should be intuitive, that there should be some logical, magical ratio. It’s counterintuitive to say this but that’s silly. Why? You want more of both. You want more new users. You want more of those users to come back. Who cares what the ratio is as long as both are going up?
We get sequences more wrong than we think if we don’t have solid research backing us. Consider this simple example. In most marketing funnels, search comes first, followed by engagement. You search for the best chocolate sundae nearby, then you go and try it. But when you think about how we shop, very often we engage first, then search. When you’re at the mall or bookstore, we make serendipitous purchases sometimes, and sometimes we take a picture with our smartphones and buy on Amazon later. In that case, the process is reversed – but how often do you think that way when you’re looking at your analytics?
In order to “defeat” intuition here, you need to do some market research. You need to watch people as they shop, as they interact with you. You need to hire a research firm to go out and ask them questions so that you figure out what your business sequence is. Only then can you truly map out your analytics and data to the way people buy from you.
Intuition Isn’t Data
The world is much more complex than our marketing tools might indicate. From understanding lurking influencers to getting buying sequences right, it’s easy to be mislead. Data is unquestionably important, but how the data is collected and the context around the data is just as important. Make sure you truly understand your data!
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