Ethics Of Social Media Data Analysis: Perhaps True Digital Campaign Success Can't Actually Be Counted

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. – William Bruce Cameron

I was reflecting today that we, as individuals on social media, are always going on about how the number of likes and engagement you receive on a personal post is not an indication of your self worth and that tools like Facebook shouldn’t be used to secure validation from your peers – and how those who are anxious can suffer tremendously due to the innate structure of the platform.

But then as digital marketing professionals we insist on using quite extreme data metrics to assess the success of our organisation or cause’s posts on Facebook, have management who literally have KPIs that determine the worth of that campaign, and those who roll out such campaigns are paid to be anxious about metrics and measures and outputs and outcomes.

The former is societally unacceptable – we care and understand and encourage our friends to switch off social media, seek counselling and not place so much importance on social media in their lives.

The latter is completely acceptable corporate style behaviour without any care or understanding that perhaps, just perhaps, the value or “worth” of the campaign or organisation may NOT lie in the data metrics and the value of the humans behind the campaign may NOT lie in how much of an increase in page likes they’ve achieved that month.

Campaign success is possibly deeper, less tangible, kinder and not actually able to be counted.

Just like in any other industry, we need to start placing less value on the data available to us and start caring more about the organisation behind the digital campaign and the people behind the digital campaign.

Let’s instead start saying: The worth of your organisation’s digital campaign isn’t indicative of your organisation’s worth. A thriving organisation shouldn’t fall into the trap of seeking validation online and suffering if it’s not attained. Social media managers shouldn’t be driven to suffer anxiety and fits of stress when a digital campaign doesn’t work.

What more qualitative measures would you like to see applied to assessing the success of a digital campaign in your organisation?

For example:

  • Did the social media manager end up in the foetal position by the end of the campaign?
  • Did revenue in other areas increase despite social media engagement not increasing?
  • Did management give the social media manager true permission to fail (as opposed to lipservice?).

Just because the digital world can be counted more than the non digital world doesn’t mean it’s the only metric of value.

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