Friday, March 16, 2012

Measuring, changing behavior

With more people trying to crack the social media measurement nut, my focus has shifted to the study of behavior change. Because if I haven't made clear my beliefs before, Brian Solis seals the deal with his redactment: Social media is about social science, not technology. So often SM metrics are diluted by what *can* be measured-- and with that ever-proliferating (stories, pins, plans, highlights...), it's easy to lose sight of what most people are interested in: effects and impact, or in other words attitude and behavior change. 

This is what stuck out to me at SXSW 2012: the number of apps (and ideas) that have emerged to focus on changing behaviors: recycling more, exercising more, using public transportation, eating healthier foods. Each of them, through the ability to:
  1. Capture behaviors in real-time
  2. Track behaviors over time (sometimes with annotations)
  3. Gain context by comparing amounts relative to our network(s)
One of the more prevalent SXSW 2012 themes, crystallized by Amber Case, is that we are increasingly sentient beings, cyborgs in our own right-- thus more and more able to capture these behaviors seamlessly, starting with our mobile phones. However, I also appreciated David Rose's contrarian view that discouraged mobile usage toward more utilitarian incorporation of technology, e.g. into furniture and medicine containers.   

What's amazing to me, as a psychologist, is how unaware we are of our behaviors without external cues and how we really need these technological advances to inform us. Better awareness of our behaviors is critical. Some psychologists believe observing our behaviors is how we come to know ourselves. Perhaps it seems preposterous that we would be blind to our own behaviors, but often people go to extreme measures to better understand their 'daily footprint'. For example, 30-day Master Cleanses; not using a car for a month; walking around with all your trash for a few weeks.

Sometimes it's more simple-- mere awareness transcends deprivation- invisible metrics are made visible and put in the hands of users.

Using apps that facilitate this awareness is a great experiment for those (e.g. brand managers, product developers) trying to crack the measurement nut. Become aware of how your own behavior changes to start thinking about what really matters when you're measuring your consumers' behavior. I often find this is the best framework for measurement in addition to reporting.  


Nadia Uddin said...

I think its your fellow practitioners who have long known this little secret of tracking behavior and its immense impact on self-awareness and making change. This process may have been privy to researchers in the past, but I feel like your field has been the one pushing this for public consumption (or maybe some marketeers doing what they do best and are using this insight to increase sales). I know from my own experience that doctors have asked me to track my behavior, and I admit that it's shocking to become aware of what I dismiss as perfunctory and easy to ignore. Hence, I think it's wonderful that such tools allow for accessibility, and my crystal ball says every human will have a data set. (Hi, Kate!)

kate said...

Thanks, Nadia - so glad to be on your radar. The "doctor's orders' aspect adds a whole new dimension, but yes - it's shocking to 'watch yourself.'