Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On Inchworms and Nightingales, or measuring social media

My son has a tendency of having me read him the same five books every night for a a few weeks. So on, about, our 40th reading of Leo Lionni's Inch by Inch, my mind wandered as I read about the clever inchworm who inched away from the nightingale, when challenged to measure her song. You see, the inchworm had already won over the likes of the crow, flamingo, toucan, pheasant, etc. - simply by measuring their tails, beaks, or legs. I was frustrated with the inchworm-- why would he inch away like a coward, when he could be creative and attempt to measure the nightingale's song in an unconventional way, even if a song is difficult to measure.

I immediately thought of marketers in social media-- running from challenges like measuring customer satisfaction or advocacy, engagement, simply because they're kludgey in social: people express them in different ways, they're ambiguous concepts with specific methodologies, the sample isn't representative...  These constructs are indeed complex, but not impossible to measure.

In psychology, they measure love, well-being, hope, personality-- really ambiguous constructs. But they do it systematically and so it's repeatable and testable, or adheres to basic measurement criteria. 

This is what I'd like to discuss at SXSW, with Sam Gosling, personality psychologist extraordinaire and author of the book Snoop, What Your Stuff Says About You.
Sam studies how personality is revealed in everyday life. He systematically measures:
  • The environments we select and create - physical (bedrooms and offices), virtual (webpages, FB), aural (music), and social (places);
  • Personality - our own perceptions, others' perceptions; and,
  • Accuracy of the relationship - things that really do reveal personality, things that people judge our personality based on, etc.  
Of course I have a bias that almost all answers to business questions have roots in psychology. This time, it's an obvious fit. Some of the measurement challenges that marketers are grappling with today could really benefit from understanding the way psychologists have developed common coins to help draw general conclusions (read: measurement standards) and creative means of going beyond standard assessments with more innovative methodologies (read: proxies) to capture different levels of behavior.

I hope this post will start a conversation to surface some of the measurement challenges you're working through-- particularly those where you're interested in how a psychologist would approach them. Please share your questions and vote for our session if you're curious to hear and discuss more. 

No comments: