Hype, truth, and judgment in the age of big data

As our clients often hear us say: forget ‘big data’, ask for the right data.

The age of Big Data is not just the age of missed opportunities, but also at times the age of Big Mistakes. As McKinsey’s head Dom Barton wisely notes this week in Fortune, judgment and the ability to ask the right questions are our biggest allies against data overload:

“If you don’t understand the business issues or questions to ask, you can crunch all sorts of interesting things and it won’t deliver. There are also judgment calls that need to be made. Machines are getting smarter at analyzing masses of information, but in a world that’s more volatile, judgment is going to be at a premium.”

Compounding the problem of big data is the issue of easy access to data: with so many numbers out in the public domain, it is not uncommon to come across noise that adds confusion to an already confusing world. Take this week’s piece in AdWeek whose title notes “Chanel Got 1.8m Instagram Followers Virtually out of Nowhere. After a few posts, the brand has competitors beat.”

What’s wrong with such emphatic statements? Let me count the ways:

  1. Turns out that Chanel already had 98% of these 1.8m followers before it posted anything
  2. The 10 images Chanel posted between the 13th and the 15th helped add 35k followers – maybe a lot, but it’s less than 2% of its total community. Given this was Chanel’s big annual N5 fragrance Christmas video reveal, it staged Gisele and the behind the scenes pictures featured Karl L., Anna W. and other icons of the fashion world, results are arguably disappointing
  3. A larger community is better than a smaller one, but the most important metric surely is the positive engagement one gets out of them. Since Oct 1, Dior scored 2x Chanel’s engagement, so I would hardly call Dior ‘beat’ yet.

The bigger problem with the poorly worded title is that it perpetuates one of the greatest misperceptions about social media, namely that a few coups d’eclat and Superbowl-like spending binges can make up for years of procrastination, hesitations and other delays. This is exactly the mis-guided thinking we at eBench aim to undo. Digital leaders are winning–and pulling away–thanks to years of doing, learning and optimizing a content-led approach to marketing.

Don’t get us wrong, looking at Chanel performance on other social networks, we’re ready to bet a lot that its Instagram account will be very successful. Yet if there was one thing about their digital strategy that has been puzzling, it was their choice to let these 1m+ Instagram followers lay dormant so many months. Dior managed to cumulate over 4m Instagram engagement since early May, and that’s a figure Chanel could have easily matched or even surpassed given the brand already had 1.3m fans back then.
Building on Dom Barton’s thoughts, we believe winners know which questions to ask, and have rapid ways of getting answers. That’s why hundreds of marketers work with eBench. Brands should focus on understanding which content and delivery strategies maximize positive engagement and quality community growth. We don’t share many secrets on this blog (we reserve them for our customers), but let us highlight a few Instagram posts with engagement rates vastly superior to Chanel’s beautiful videos.

Dior Make-up from its 2015 ready-to-wear spring-summer 2015 show (50% better than Chanel’s top post)

Essie’s picture earned 50% more engagement than Chanel’s top post, 4.5x more engagement per follower

Posted 5 months ago, this MAC image earned more total engagement than Chanel’s top video with an engagement per follower twice superior