February 19th, 2008 by Lloyd Gofton
Last night’s Chinwag Live event was all about measuring the effectiveness of social media – a brave subject matter, bearing in mind that many are still getting to grips with what social media is, let alone grasping the new metrics associated with it.
Sitting on the panel were Alex Burmaster, European internet analyst at research firm Nielsen Online, Robin Grant from word-of-mouth agency 1000heads, Will McInnes, MD of social media agency Nixon McInnes, and Ankur Shah of data-driven measurement company Techlightenment. The panel was chaired by a big name within web analytics – Jim Sterne.
As a first observation, I found it disappointing that there was not a better balance of communications experts on the panel. Granted, measurement often goes hand in hand with technology and data collection, but monitoring is equally as important in social media and far more the realm of communicators. Although Ankur and Alex put forward their very best case for technolgy being the answer to everything, I remain unconvinced that in this early stage in social media, technology is able to accurately interpret emotion, tone, and to a certain extent the unsaid.
A pertinent observation by Jim Sterne was “getting humans to agree on language is almost impossible”. If that’s the case, how on earth can we expect computers to. In Will McInnes’ words: “humans are slow, and computers are dumb”.
If I’m honest, I came away thinking that I hadn’t learnt as much as I’d hoped to, and this sentiment seemed to be shared by other people in the audience. A Tweetscan last night for ‘chinwag’ was very telling – a lot of passive observations, but nothing ground-breaking or inspiring being shared.
One hypothesis for the night had been the notion of establishing industry-wide agreement on measurement standards. This wasn’t discussed in great depth, but there seemed to be a reluctance to address the concept and debate how it could work. This underlined my major disappointment with the evening – that being that everyone was talking from their own individual agendas. While social media is inherently about honesty and openness, the data experts were keeping their cards very close to their chests, and not so willing to reach conscensus on anything. While I appreciate this was a discussion, it would have been nice to see more willingness for collaboration, from an industry operating at the heart of social media.