Colbert Shows Why Volume By Itself Means Nothing in Social Media

by Eric Melin on September 6, 2012

Post image for Colbert Shows Why Volume By Itself Means Nothing in Social Media

We’ve been saying it for a long time here on the Spiral16 blog: If you’re only measuring volume in your social media monitoring results, you’re missing out.

Last night The Colbert Report made that point hilariously clear. Thanks, Stephen!

The TV news media’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention Monday night is what spawned Colbert’s satiric attack on bad social media measurement practices.

As many networks reported, there were far more people tweeting about Michelle Obama during her speech Monday night than there were during Mitt Romney’s speech the week before at the Republican National Convention. Total Twitter volume for Michelle Obama was in the range of 28,000 tweets per minute while volume generated about Romney on Twitter while he spoke topped out at around 14,000.

(Speaking of conventions and Twitter, how about those Promoted Trends?)

At 1:41 in the video, an ABC newsman illustrates the downside of having only these social volume numbers:

“Now, it doesn’t measure whether or not they were positive tweets or regular remarks.” [tape splice] “Just some interesting numbers, really though — who knows what they mean?”

Colbert summed it up in his usual deadpan satiric way:

“Who knows? Who cares? The point is these numbers are out there and it’s the media’s duty to report them without the liberal filter of meaning something.”

He’s right, folks. It’s often a company’s first inclination to ask about volume and focus strictly on that when measuring the success of their social media and web campaigns. But the key to deriving insight from social media monitoring is to look at everything and develop some context around it.

Sentiment is important, but when you are monitoring social media, look at the context and content of the language surrounding your company, competitor, or issue.

Volume is useful, but only when you have a benchmark or context to create a narrative. When measuring volume, make sure you look for the points where data matches up. As I’ve written before: “Add some context to the long-term data movement. A little detective work (after a lot of planning ahead on what to measure before you start) goes a long way.”

Each company will have different goals and different need when it comes to listening online and making sense of the data. Don’t spend all your time and money on gathering the data and then simply look at a couple volume charts and export them for a report to your company. Dig deeper and find out what your social data means and how it can inform and improve your business.

Take it from Stephen Colbert, who understands how to rewrite context better than anyone:

“Boom! I have never seen numbers like that. 22,004! That number is huge — especially when you compare it to other numbers that are smaller.”

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: