Inside a recent fortune cookie: “Statistics are no substitute for judgment.”

Putting aside that fortune cookies are no longer fortunes anymore, they’re aphorisms (or “sh**ty observation cookies” as my friends Constantin and Paull call them), this is a pretty good aphorism about social media.

While I believe that it’s essential that social media managers, and their marketing and PR colleagues, figure out how to measure the ROI of social media – the statistics part – I also think there’s an important judgment part of social as well.  Kat French says it’s about narrative and anecdote – that you’ve got to put aside the “idiot gauges” and figure out what the customer and brand impact really is.

You have to use your judgment to determine if social media is helping your customers, brand, product or service.

List of cookies

Image via Wikipedia

“Help” of course means different things to different people.  Help can be about brand perception, awareness or buzz; customer satisfaction and loyalty; or reducing the load on the customer service team.  The judgment part is having a gut sense of what social is doing for the brand, numbers aside.  If there’s buzz, and it feels positive, and you’re having a good time doing it and engaging with customers/brand fans, you’re probably inclined to chalk up the effort as a good one – your judgment there is probably serving you well.

Sure, that’s a really hard sell to management.  Imagine telling your boss, “My gut tells me social is working for us and it’s a good thing for our brand” but without backing it up in any way.  You might get marched out the door, or maybe just have all your social budget pulled out from under you.  By contrast, you might have lots of positive statistics, but how do you know that your efforts are really connecting with your customers?  If you can combine good judgment with good statistics, then you’re well on your way to social media success.

Happy New Year! Here’s to your social media success in 2011!

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About Stephanie Schwab

Stephanie Schwab

Stephanie Schwab is the Principal of Crackerjack Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in social media planning and execution. Stephanie is also the founder of the Digital Family Summit, the first-of-its-kind conference for tween bloggers and content creators and their families. Throughout her 20-year career, she has developed and led marketing and social media programs for top brands and has presented on social media and e-commerce topics at numerous conferences and corporate events. Stephanie writes about social media at CrackerjackMarketing.com, sometimes hangs out at Google+, and tweets @stephanies.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://mytwittertoolbox.com David Perdew

    It is necessary to have both analytics and good judgment to get the best ROI from social media, but there is a measure of uncertainty with relying on either one too much. You could easily get lost in numbers and never really connect with the people you want or need to for your business.

    I think the ultimate factor is to set a specific time-frame as a reference, a goal for seeing the results you feel necessary to warrant further investment or backing off. There's also the lack of a universal standard for things like sentiment and influence, so maybe relying on more than one tool or measure is the answer.