Cognitive Bias in Social Media Strategy

A common challenge in the field of marketing is the “everyone’s got an opinion” phenomenon.  In other fields like finance or engineering, deeply skilled practitioners do their jobs every day with few “outsiders” questioning their tactics.  In marketing, every person has an opinion on whether a tactic, campaign or initiative will resonate, no matter how deeply skilled the marketers are who developed them.  Enter the challenge of cognitive bias.

Wikipedia defines cognitive bias as:

A cognitive bias is the human tendency to draw incorrect conclusions in certain circumstances based on cognitive factors rather than evidence. Such biases are thought to be a form of “cognitive shortcut”, often based upon rules of thumb, and include errors in statistical judgment, social attribution, and memory.

Marketers don’t have to guess.  There are increasingly more data sources and proven tactics to test hypotheses, which is the entire premise behind marketing segmentation (but that’s another story).  When a new approach is involved – especially one that can question traditional tactics and measurements – it’s easy for people to apply the same filters on interpreting or judging how successful strategies will be.  Social media, and all the technologies that enable two-way and multi-way dialogue with customers, creates that same conundrum for traditional marketers.

Companies need to look at the tools they have at their disposal and leverage them to understand the customer. Web analytics, social media monitoring, feedback, surveys, market research, segmentation, business intelligence, case studies, conventional statistics and studies…There are many inputs that companies can use to determine what makes sense to fuel social strategies that will resonate with their customers in context.  The resource that should be least often used (or minimally, avoided as the sole measurement of an idea): what does someone think personally.  As a marketer, are you really your own targest customer?  Understanding the needs, attitudes and behaviors of customers with respect to social media is necessary to build an educated and insightful hypothesis to try out.  You can even collaborate with customers to figure out what may work (imagine that).  No one needs to read the tea leaves.

Photo credit: mikesell via flickr