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Don’t Ignore the Data

August 29, 2013 | By | No Comments


I haven’t done much writing in the two year’s since the release of my book Social Media Leadership, How to get Off the Bench and Into the Game.   I never thought of writing a book until several of my piers provided the encouragement to share my thoughts on how the emergence of social media and access to real time customer conversation would impact all of us in the C Suite. 

I have taken some time to gauge my target audience’s reaction to my thoughts and opinions and fortunately, most of the people within my network were kind in their reviews and I’ve heard good things from others that I met as result of their reading the book. For the past few months you could say I’ve been in the mindset of “quit while you’re ahead”.  After all, I’m a business guy and I doubt I’ll ever be able to make my living as an author.

Now that we have all of these tools and platforms, what is best way to put them to use?

Recently, our work with client companies in social media has provided me another opportunity to share some thoughts that will hopefully resonate with all of us trying to implement social media best practices to improve and grow our businesses. I’m writing this to address the number one question that is posed to us which is best stated as: “Now that we have all of these tools and platforms, what is best way to put them to use?”  Our response is always based upon the goals and needs of the individual business or not for profit organizations, however, the best answer begins with let’s get the right data and let it tell us what to do.

This dynamic has been around long before the emergence of big data and social media.  I discovered a great example of this recently as I was reading Rick Atkinson’s new book, The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe 1944-1945.  During his terrific account of the Battle of the Bulge, I found it very interesting that there were numerous bits of intelligence being gathered on the front lines that indicated the German army was preparing for a major offensive. However, most of the Allied generals dismissed this information outright. They opted to rely on their own opinions that an attack was not imminent due to harsh winter weather or because the German army consisted of very young or very old troops incapable of inflicting serious damage to Allied forces.

There is no way to know how history would have been altered if Allied leadership would have paid any attention at all to these bits of intelligence that unfortunately, turned out to be very accurate.  The damage that was experienced from ignoring the right pieces of data was devastating and nearly cost the Allies all of their gains in Europe post D-Day, and could have ultimately turned the war into a stalemate. Fortunately the Allies hung on and achieved victory.

We know that gathering and analyzing data is complicated and in most situations involves the application of a well-developed technology or platform.  Real-time actionable data is more available and accessible than at any time since the dawn of mankind, but its value is determined by the people that analyze and interpret it.

The most common mistake or disconnect that we observe is when people take the attitude of “forget what the data says, we know better”.  I see this not only within our own company, but clients and prospects as well.  Experience is certainly a good teacher but it can also provide the wrong answer to an issue, create the wrong strategy for action and in a worst case scenario, threaten the very existence of our business.

In today’s business world, customers are won and lost based upon our ability to find their voices

However in today’s business world, customers are won and lost based upon our ability to find their voices, listen to their wants and needs and ultimately tailor products and services that fulfill these needs and expectations. We cannot ignore the data we work so hard to obtain and analyze solely because our experience prevents us from exploring and embracing other strategies or solutions.

We have a saying in our organization that the same things done the same way, lead to the same results.  Over the past twenty years we have seen the impact and changes brought by what I broadly describe as the online world.  Unfortunately, the pace of this change is accelerating rapidly.  It brings both the opportunity for growth and the downside of losing ground to competitors and new players.

My message is experience counts but don’t ignore what the data is telling you.  It is critical that you rely on people experienced in the analysis of on line data to lead you in the right direction. Otherwise, you may face your own Battle of the Bulge.


Mike Lewis
Chairman, CEO, Social Strategy1

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