When marketing data is counterintuitive

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. 

Influencer Management

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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Has Facebook failed local businesses?

Laura asked about my thoughts on this Fast Company article:


If the question is whether the free ride is over for businesses on Facebook, the answer is an unequivocal yes. The freeloading is done and gone. Nullem gratuitem prandium: no such thing as a free lunch, as the Romans said.

If the question is whether Facebook is useless to small businesses that don’t have millions of dollars, the answer is equally firm: no. Facebook is still plenty useful to businesses even on meager budgets.

What sort of things might small, local businesses still be able to do on Facebook without shelling out massive fortunes?

Retargeting and Remarketing

Facebook offers two simple kinds of remarketing and retargeting. The first is custom audiences, in which you upload your email or phone database (hashed, if you want it to be guaranteed secure) and then set up ads to run against that audience. It’s an inexpensive way to reach the highest value people on Facebook – people who you’ve identified could be customers or are customers already.

The second kind of remarketing is web-based remarketing. Small businesses can place tracking tags on the most valuable pages on their websites and then show ads only to those people who visit those pages and leave.

Both of these forms of advertising can be done for $5 a day and up. Obviously, the more resources you can throw at it, the better, but you can do a lot for a little.

Network Leverage

Another form of Facebook marketing leverages the gap between business Page and employees. If you’re a small business owner who has done a good job of cultivating your personal Facebook profile in addition to your business Page, then make sure you’re sharing your business Page updates from your personal profile. 

An excellent example of this is my martial arts teacher, Mark Davis. He shares the Boston Martial Arts business Page updates on his personal profile, and more often than not, I see his posts before the school’s posts:


Note that you don’t have to do this with EVERY post – just the key ones, like upcoming events, etc.

Facebook Groups

The final area you can leverage is Facebook Groups, either by participating (sensibly, please; no spamming!) or setting up your own group. Groups are an easy way to reach pockets of people who share interests in what your business serves. Find the right group, and if one doesn’t exist, make one!

Bear in mind that geography is important. Just because there’s a broad category group doesn’t mean there’s a local group. There’s a podcasting group, but is there a suburban Boston podcasters group? If not, there’s an easy void for you to fill.

Yes, Small Businesses Can Benefit from Facebook

Facebook still has opportunities for meaningful participation by businesses big and small. You have to find them, and for the ones you don’t pay money for, you have to work harder at them.

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Should you have a social media marketing patron?

In one of many conversations yesterday at Social Media Marketing World, I was asked, “How does someone new get started building a following?” While there’s no cut and dried answer that makes it easy, one of the accelerators you can use to jump start a program is to leverage a patron, an idea

What is a patron? In this context, a patron is someone who’s willing to “sponsor” your social identity into a circle of influence and trust. This can be something as simple as someone retweeting your content on a consistent basis to their audience, or something as complex as having an advisor coach you through the beginning of building your audience.

Do you need a patron? No, of course not. You can accomplish audience-building entirely on your own by combining paid social media with organic content, and leveraging all of the marketing methods that we know and love. Patrons just accelerate the process by brokering relationships and making connections faster.


How do you find a patron? If you’re considering that avenue, look at your social graph, the people you’re connected to. Who is already talking about the things you want to talk about? Who has an audience that’s like the one you want? Who is reachable? Here’s one potential method: While social media influence scores are terrible KPIs and should never be used to measure the success of a program, they are a useful hint for the level of difficulty you might have in reaching someone.


If you’re starting out and you’ve got a score of 1, the 1-10 bracket is probably the first group of people you can do outreach to, to build your base. As your network grows, reach up into the next bracket. For example, if your score is 15, look to reach out to people in the 20-29 bracket. Connect with them, share their stuff, provide them value first, and after you’ve established a relationship, make whatever ask you’re planning on making.

To Mark Schaefer’s recent point, no one is holding you down, but there are lots of people who can lift you up if you’re smart and targeted in your approach.

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