The Game's Afoot: A Holmesian Approach to Social Media Measurement

The Game's Afoot: A Holmesian Approach to Social Media Measurement

(Note: originally, this note was posted on a now defunct blog in response to a Netsquared Think Tank request. This post has been updated and modified to stay current, as well as to promote my upcoming September 10th Sherlock Holmes & Social Media class via Dabble).

Once upon a long ago, various Net Tuesday groups were asked  What are your favorite tools and tactics for listening, and how do you use your findings to inspire practical change from within?

Having had some experience working in social media measurement and engagement - two topics which most people would find, well, dry and academic - I wanted to post my own experience and insight.

Part of the reason I enjoy monitoring and measurement is that it engages my inner detective, stemming from a boyhood love of Sherlock Holmes. (Disclaimer - I also am a semi-regular contributor for the Baker Street Blog, and have assembled a presentation specifically around Sherlock Holmes & Social Media). Although seemingly detached from the more human aspects of social good/non-profit work, how we monitor and use those insights provides us with the ability to be “more than human”, and to see our greater impact - or as Holmes himself once remarked, “From a drop of water, a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other.”

So in monitoring, although there are many great tools (such as Radian 6, which is a bit more data-centric, and the slightly more user friendly UberVu or open source alternatives like Tattlr) for monitoring, how we approach montoring and measurement is much more critical.

  • Is our story being told? And how is it being told?  - Although this sounds dangerously close to marketing speak, it actually touches on our sense of mission and purpose. If we are working towards ultimate benefit, how is our organization being spoken about (if at all)? How about our partners? Our overall issue? By knowing the tone and extent of conversation, we can identify opportunities to more clearly advocate?
  • Who and where are people talking? - Twitter and Facebook are the de facto channels for consumer driven conversation, but for our cause? It may be better to use monitoring tools to find channels of current activity. As Holmes once suggested, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories rather than theories to suit facts”
  • Look beyond the obvious - choose to observe rather than see - Part of monitoring is to find themes and patterns within online conversation, both driven by your organization and by others. Be willing to make deductions based on what you are observing, and let what you find and deduce shape your approach to social media and online conversation. Because “Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person”
  • Document your findings - Creating a regular report for monitoring can be as easy as a spreadsheet or document, noting both quantitative and qualitative data. It sounds counter to wanting to engage on a human level, but what this does is allow for further justification should you require to seek funding, other organizational support, etc.
  • Beware of a self-appointed “Moriarity” - Much has been said about the self-proclaimed “social media expert”; let me change this to a different type of person. A person who claims on some level to have “a web with a thousand radiations”, yet seems to have nothing more than a pleasant personality. Any efforts to engage within social media need to have a solid strategic basis which includes monitoring and further engagement.

In short, this is more of a good “first step” towards thinking about social media monitoring - to begin seeing it as a way to create very person-driven insights that allow you to further engage others online.

Or as Holmes asserts to Watson - “You know my methods. Apply them.”

(If you wish to reacquaint yourself with Sherlock Holmes, I strongly suggest the volunteer-created audiobooks at Librivox, many of which are also part of the Internet Archive. And I also welcome your questions and comments).

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