Democratic Data


One of the biggest stories of the just-passed presidential campaigns was a story about a statistician, of all occupations. Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight Blog at the New York Times does statistical analysis. Formerly of baseball statistical fame, Nate’s more recent career finds him analyzing an aggregate of political polls and forecasting probabilities based upon an algorithm that has been tested and proven remarkably accurate through multiple elections.

Nevertheless, approaching the 2012 presidential election, Mr. Silver and his methodology came under attack from supporters of the Mitt Romney Campaign because his analysis showed a high statistical probability that President Obama would be re-elected. Furthermore, by all evidence, Romney campaign officials and Republican pundits and pollsters refused to believe his forecasts, choosing instead to create their own polling models until they predicted the election of their candidate. As it turns out, the FiveThirtyEight Blog predictions were almost perfectly reliable. blogger, Michael Scherer published a fascinating recount of how the Obama Campaign used modern consumer-oriented techniques of database management, data-mining, “consumer” profiling, and behavior modeling to turn out likely voters through highly dynamic voter turnout techniques, in real time. It worked almost exactly as predicted by the data and campaign gurus who developed the program and to devastating surprise to the Romney Campaign.

The thing is, data doesn’t care who you are, what you think or, especially, what you want to believe. It’s simply a tool. Data is useful to collect, process, analyze and utilize correctly to answer specific questions or solve specific problems. Those who fail to appreciate what it can do or understand what it says will simply be left behind by those who do.

Sound of the One Man Brand

Dr. Bret Simmons ( of the University of Nevada Reno, offers a fascinating and deeply informative four, half-day class titled Social Media for Business. The class might better be titled Social Media for Professional Branding or Sound of the One Man Brand.

Dr. Simmons builds a social media strategy around blog content that is both interesting and useful to his audience and uses Twitter to announce new content (his and, more importantly, other highly-read bloggers’) to a wide network of people interested in management, branding, social media and other topics who are often connected through Goggle+ and LinkedIn, as subject-specific groups or “tribes.” His referred tweets and keyword strategies get him seen, linked and place him at the top of Google search results.

The course is invaluable for academics, writers, artists, and others who have the means and the interest in building a brand around their individual content development skills, talents and knowledge. Although some artists may prefer to use content media that favor music, art/portfolio, video, etc., if they have something interesting to say about their art or the creative process, they now have the means in social media to use their blogging on a subject and Dr. Bret’s social media strategy to draw an audience and link back to their visual or auditory work. As long as their blogging content provides value to their audience, and they follow the strategies designed to connect to that audience they stand to develop a wide following and well-developed brand.

However, this strategy is ideal for academics, researchers and writers who naturally produce abundant written content of interest to a large audience. Dr. John Rogers, physicist, stand-up comic and screenwriter ( was a pioneer in using blogging to build an audience around prolific and varied content and, no doubt, had he had the social media tools and techniques used by Dr. Simmons, he would have built an even more impressive following. Rogers’ claim to fame actually came about through political blogging, which he later shifted almost entirely to informative content on screenwriting, both the process and the business.

Social media is a highly dynamic and sometimes difficult set of marketing tools but Bret Simmons has developed a model that is adaptable to new media and platforms and should stand the test of time for anyone who can provide relevant, useful written content and use the available tools to link and promote that content to interested audiences. You can follow Dr. Simmons’ tweets at @drbret.

Social Media Mental

In a previous episode we saw Proctor & Gamble pulling a substantial amount of their advertising resources from traditional media and moving them to media “like Facebook and Google.” More recently, GM angered Facebook by pulling it’s entire ad buy on the eve of Facebook’s IPO.

It turns out that the timing wasn’t intentional, the move was in the works for some time and that GM had to do some pretty serious restructuring of it’s Facebook program and will probably move back to Facebook once it does. Considering the competition, it really has to.

But the article that describes the move gets some stuff pretty wrong about social media.

For one thing, it calls non-working spend
industry jargon for money spent on stuff consumers don't see.” Literally, it’s the exact opposite. Non-working spend means creative and content, rather than actual advertising - minutes or inches bought. But those minutes and inches need to be filled with something and it had better be good if you want to sell anything.

Similarly, the article goes on to say that
GM should first “[keep] it simple on Facebook,” create a brand page, gather some Likes and Fans and interact with their core consumer base GM and that, “these things can be done for free.” Again, these thing require a branding strategy that is applied by people and that time and talent isn’t free, unless GM has found a nifty way to get people to work for nothing - even chimpanzees need to be paid with food and I hear that their creative process is to literally throw something at the wall to see what sticks.

Anyway, both GMs well-budgeted unforced error and the article about it in show that social media are still confusing to people who should have more expertise than your average bear.

Check out
this chart.

A lesson for not putting all of your social media eggs in one basket!

Obviously, everyone who is using/managing a Facebook page is now well aware of the big changes Facebook has recently instituted. Business owners, particularly micro-business owners who have invested heavily in the old format will now have to spend additional time and/or resources redoing their new pages.

In a pretty comprehensive article on those changes in, the author, Pam Moore is forced to say things like, “it’s important you don’t waste too much time complaining…[n]ow before you go off on a wild rant about how terrible this is…Facebook can make any changes they see fit, whenever they decide to do so,“ begins the article with the sentence, “[y]up, Facebook did it to us again,” and has an entire section entitled, “[d]on’t freak out.” If this leaves you with the impression that Facebook has just done an awful disservice to it’s small business users - and made their agencies very very happy - yeah, me too. And I’m an agency owner.

Going for Broke

Proctor & Gamble have just gone on a big cost-cutting spree, especially around their advertising costs, “as it moves more spending into digital media, where the sheer number of options and availability of largely free distribution drives down expenses.”

This is a particularly interesting quote by Chairman-CEO Bob McDonald, indicating the thinking behind the move:

"In the digital space, with things like Facebook and Google and others, we find that return on investment of the advertising when properly designed, when the big idea is there, can be much more efficient," Mr. McDonald said. He cited the 1.8 billion in free impressions generated by the Old Spice campaign in recent years, adding "there are many other examples I can cite from all over the world."

I’d love to hear them. And then the ratio of those viral mega-success stories to all corporate social-media video promos. Prediction: it’s rather wide.

Far be it from me to second-guess the CEO of P&G but if he’s relying on a strategy of Old Spice ROI, I also predict that he’ll be disappointed (so will his shareholders).

I’m not suggesting that the continual move from traditional to popular social media shouldn’t continue apace. But to bank on the idea of a social media free lunch is probably a strategic mistake. The Old Spice spots had good creative/talent and that’s not free. Neither is the staff/agency that writes the strategy and implements the marketing, even (especially) the “free” social media.